"Smithsonian Exhuming a man, and a history (Virginia)� [Richmond Times-Dispatch 30 Jan 2007]

According to the
Richmond-Times and Archaeology magazine, the skeletal remains of �one of the wealthiest men in the 17th century Chesapeake Bay� were recovered from St. Luke�s Church. The remains of JOSEPH BRIDGER [1631-1686], JOHN WILLIAM�S 8th great grandfather, were buried in the chancel of the historic St. Luke�s Church in Smithfield, Virginia.  After the exhumation, the Rev. Gary Barker blessed the remains and the Smithsonian team involved. Anthropologists want to know about �his physical appearance, cause of death, and the diet eaten by the rich and powerful colonists.� It is hoped that a facial reconstruction can be made, as no likeness of him exists. The results of the study will be included in a Smithsonian Natural History Museum  exhibit opening 7 Feb. 2009.

re-interred 15 Apr. 2007, the 321st anniversary of his death. There was a burial service, using the 1662 Book of Comman Prayer,  attended by 200 of his descendants from 13 states, including some of JOHN WILLIAM'S "cousins" from Trigg and Christian Counties, Kentucky. JOSEPH was originally buried on his estate �White Marsh�, then moved to St. Luke�s in the 1890's, as he was long associated with the church. The whole procedure was  filmed by The History Channel.

LATEST: Dr. Douglas Owsley, PhD, a world renowned physical/biological anthropolgist, Division head for Physical Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, found in his study of the bones of Col BRIDGER that he had a large amount of lead in his bones - probably obtained from the metal of his pewter plates and metal utensils. He also had Gout, both leading to a painful last few years for the Colonel. Though his skelton was not complete, there was enough to tell that he was a big, strong man with a high forehead and a broad nose. At age 55 there was hardly any arthritis. His cause of death has not been determined. The results of the study will be on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History 7 Feb. 2009 to July 2010 in an exhibit entitled Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th Century Chesapeake.

The "Old Brick Church", as it was known before being St. Luke�, is the oldest existing church of English foundation in America and the nation's only surviving Gothic building. Other ancestors were also associated with it.  The REV.
ROBERT BRASWELL [1611-1668], also an 8th great grandfather, was rector of Lawn�s Creek Parish, which became Southwark and is now commonly known as St. Luke's or the �Old Brick Church.� A chapel built in 1743 at Jerusalem, a mission of the Newport Parish Church at Smithfield, i.e. St Luke's or Old Brick, was first called Flower, later Flowers Church after HENRY FLOWERS [1670-1745], a 5th great grandfather.

The BRIDGERS in England were Royalists, and Royalists were harshly treated, and their wealth confiscated. The BRIDGER family would have heard about Virginia from their friend JOHN SMYTH, a founder of the Berkeley Company, established in 1618 to transport emigrants to Virginia.  Also JOSEPH'S grandfather JOHN NEWCE went to Virginia cir. 1618 and was made Councillor of State in 1621. JOSEPH BRIDGER, SR., was brought to Virginia in 1652, by Col. NATHANIEL BACON with whom he later served as "Councillor of State in Virginia to King Charles II." He became a wealthy man and a prominent citizen.  His name first appears  in the official records of Virginia in 1657 when, at the age of 29, with JOHN BREWER he represented the county in the General Assembly of Virginia.  He represented Isle of Wight Co. in the House of Burgesses 1657-58 and again in 1663.

He acquired several thousand acres in Isle of Wight Co. besides grants in Surry and James City counties and in Maryland.  He was on the Commission to adjust the boundary line between Virginia and Maryland in 1664; 1666 he was Adjutant General of the Virginia forces; commander of the Isle of Wight militia in the Indian War of 1675, and sworn a member of the Council in 1670 and present at meetings in 1674.  There was a query as to his eligibility to the Council, but the King on 14 Mar 1678/79 directed that he be continued in the council, and he is mentioned as a councillor as late as 1683.  On 12 July 1666 he was one of the commissioners to treat with Maryland upon the subject of tobacco culture.  "He had a 21-room mansion with slate floors and owned thousands of acres in Virginia and Maryland, said William P. Carrell II, a descendant and vice president of the family group."

He was a Royalist, supported King Charles, opposed Bacon�s Rebellion.  In 1676 he was described by NAT. BACON as one of Berkeley�s "wicked and pernicious councillors."  During the rebellion, he was given command of "all the country south of James River."  Sir JOHN BERRY, a commissioner sent to Virginia by Charles II to report on the progress of Gov. BERKELEY, said about JOSEPH BRIDGER: "(He was) a very resolute gentleman, who though forced to flee in the heat of war in his own countrie, yet on his return, was very active and instrumental in reducing to their obedience the South part of the James River."  He was a member of the governor's court in 1677 and a witness to his will.  By 1680 he was commander-in-chief of the militia forces raised "So as to be ready for the Indians" in Isle of Wight, Surry, Nansemond and lower Norfolk.  In 1683 Lord CULPEPPER appointed him his deputy in the office of vice-admiral.

JOSEPH built a 17 room brick house which he named "Whitemarsh" on his estate. Excavations at Whitemarsh have revealed a wine bottle seal bearing a strong resemblance to the BRIDGER coat of arms.  Earlier his gravestone had been unearthed with a lengthy epitaph, in part, "Sacred to the Memory of The Honorable JOSEPH BRIDGER, Esq Councillor of State in Virginia to King Charles ye 2nd.  Dying April ye 15; A.D. 1686, aged 58 years, mournfully leaving his wife, three sons and four daughters... To Charles, his councels did such honor bring his own express fetched him to attend the King..."

JOSEPH married HESTER PITT, and they were parents to 8 children, one being JOSEPH, JOHN WILLIAM�S 7th great grandfather. In a codicil to his will JOSEPH SR. wrote of his son, �I finde my Sonne JOSEPH BRIDGER fly out into divers disloute courses of life and is grown very disobedient to me and that I may not be guilty of giveinge him an estate & encouragement to Continue for the future in his wicked way of liveinge I do hereby therefore revoke and disanull all and Every part of the legacies given him in the Will aforesaid both of lands and my personall Estate.� JOSEPH JR. angered
his father by his participation in
Bacon�s Rebellion. He later regained some of his inheritance in a suit against his brothers.
JOSEPH BRIDGER SR and JR. are the ancestors of DRURY BRIDGES [1765-1840] who with his wife CHARITY
COHOON [1771-1852] went to Trigg Co, KY, and were the ancestors of the many BRIDGES descendants there.

St. Luke's, the Old Brick Church
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