Thursday, August 04, 2016

Thursday Novel Excerpt (a wife!)

The first real influx of women to Jamestown came in 1620, ninety women. Many of them were married before the end of their first day ashore. The demand for a wife among the mostly male, severely isolated colony was tremendous. The gentlemen absorbed the newcomers so quickly there was nothing left for nobodies like Thomas, far down the totem pole.

It was much more likely for someone like Thomas to find a widow to marry. Each year, the chances for survival increased. There was of course the "Indian massacre of 1622," when a third of the colony was killed. Thomas had such a thorough knowledge of the land and good enough relations with the native Americans that he was able to escape death in those skirmishes.

The marriage of Pocahontas to John Rolfe in 1614 was a peace treaty of sorts that significantly slowed down the fighting until her death back in England in 1617. The four years of fighting leading up to that marriage had been brutal.

He was a nobody, a stowaway. When King James granted land, he was passed over. He fished and helped others farm their own land. He didn't need much. For three decades he fished and farmed and laid low whenever the natives attacked...

The first real change for Thomas came in 1640. In those days he was helping a fairly new arrival figure out how to plant tobacco on his land, a man named John Augustine. This man was almost Thomas' age but knew nothing of farming. He had no children but had come with a 36 year old wife named Elizabeth. Thomas knew the business as well as anyone and so helped them get started.

Then suddenly, after being in Virginia less than a year, John suddenly fell ill and died. Elizabeth was distraught. How would she survive? She had no family to rely on. She had no interest in farming. What would she do?

It was not long before she and Thomas were married, in 1640, and that very year they gave birth to a son, whom Elizabeth wanted to name Augustine in honor of her dead husband.

Thomas kind of liked the name Augustine. For him, it was a very Catholic name. Although his childhood in Wales was only a shadow to him now, someone else's life, he remembered how the ministers of his childhood praised the Celtic missionaries over "that blasted Catholic Augustine" who first brought the papist poison to England in the late 500s. It was their way of handling the Protestant revolution that had taken place under Henry VIII.

At home, however, Thomas' father, also named Thomas, wasn't so convinced. He remembered his father say, "The English do whatever the English do, and we just go along with them."

Captain Wynne had been a closet Catholic. Indeed several of the earliest settlers had been, like Gabriel Archer. When Gabriel died in the starving time of 1609, he made sure he was buried with the little flask of holy water he had brought with him. Captain Wynne had shared all sorts of stories about his time in France and other Catholic countries during his spying days. For men like Archer and Wynne, coming to America in part was a way to find a breathing space.

And so Augustine Shelburne I was born. The first of the Shelburnes to be born in America.

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