1630 Mihil Gowen black servant given freedom in 1657

Mihil Gowen b. abt 1630 m. to Prossa Gowen (unk maiden name)

died:  November 24, 1708

Parents:

Unk

Children:

Children born to Mihil Gowen and Prossa Gowen include:

William Gowen born August 25, 1655 (confirmed)
Philip Gowen b. abt 1657 (possibly a child of Mihil’s, not confirmed)

Possible children of Mihil Gowen and his second wife include:

Mihil Gowen, Jr. born about 1656  (possibly, not confirmed)

Siblings: 

Unk

Facts:

1657 October 25- Mihill Gowen, a black servant, receives his freedom in Virginia. The Manumission of Mihill Gowen. [Christopher Stafford decided to free his black servant, Mihill Gowen, in his will.  Stafford’s sister, Amy Barnhouse, carried out his wishes in 1657. The widow Barnhouse also freed Mihill Gowen‘s son, William.  She did not free her enslaved woman, who was William‘s mother.]

“Bee itt known unto all Christian people that whereas Mihill Gowen Negro of late servant to my Brother Xopher Stafford deced by his last will & Testament bearing Date the 18 of Jan 1654 had his freedom given unto him after the expiration of 4 yeares service unto my uncle Robert Stafford Therefore know all whom itt may concern that I Anne Barnehouse for divers good couses mee hereunto moving doe absolutely quitt & discharge the sd Mihill Gowen from any service & for ever sett him free from any claim of service either by mee or any one my behalf as any part or parcell of my Estate that my be claimed by mee the said Amy Barnhouse my heyres Exers Admrs or Assignes as witness my hand this 25 Oct 1657 Amy (AB) Barnhouse”

“Bee itt knowne unto all Xcian people that I Ame Barnehouse of Martins hundred widdow for divers good causes & consideracons mee hereunto moving hath given unto Mihill Gowen Negro hee being att this time servant unto Robert Stafford a Male child borne the 25 Aug 1655 of the body of myNegro Prosta being baptised by Mr. Edward Johnson 2 Sept 1655 & named William & I the said Amy Barnhouse doth bind my selfe my heyres Exer Admr & Ass never to trouble or molest the said Mihill Gowin or his sone William or demand any service of the said Mihill or his said sone William In wittnes whereof I have caused this to be made & done I hereunto sett my hand & Seale this present 16 Sept 1655 Amy (AB) Barnhouse.”

Source: York County Deeds, Orders, and Wills (3) 16, 26 January 1657/8.

Mihil Gowen, a slave of Christopher Stafford of York County, Virginia, was given his freedom September 16, 1657 in two declarations made by Anne Barnhouse, sister of Stafford. The declarations, recorded in “York County, Virginia Wills, Deeds and Orders, 1657-1659,” made after the death of Stafford and after Mihil Gowen had served an additional four years with Robert Stafford, read:

“I, Anne Barnhouse of Martin Hundred, widow, have given Mihil Gowen, Negro, at this time servant to Robert Stafford, a male child born 25 August 1655 of the body of my Negro, Prossa, being baptized by Mr. Edward Johnson 25 September 1655 and named William, and I bind myself never to trouble Mihil Gowen or his son, William or demand any service of them. 16 September 1657.”

“Mihil Gowen, Negro, of late serving my brother Xtopher Stafford, dcsd, by his last will & testament, had his freedom given him after the expiration of 4 years service to my uncle, Robert Stafford. I, Anne Barnhouse do absolve, quit and discharge the said Mihil Gowen from my service 25 October 1657. A. B. [The mark of Anne Barnhouse].

Witnesses: Arthur Dickenson Joseph Albrighton”.

It is estimated that Mihil Gowen was born about 1630, place and parents unknown.  Some think John Graweare may have been his father.
http://www.virtualjamestown.org/practise.html

1668 Feb 8 – Mihill Gowree receives a 30 to 40 acre deed from Capt Barnhouse. Formerly belonging to John Turner.  James City County, Va. The deed read: “Mihill Gowree. 30 or 40 acres situated in Merchants Hundred Parish in James City County, formerly belonging to John James, decd, and by him purchased of Capt. Richard Barnhouse and lately bound to escheat [forfeiture and reversion to the crown] and by a jury for said county under hand and seal of Col. Miles Carey, 20 December 1666 and now granted to said Gowree 8 February 1668.”

By the time Mihil Gowen died, apparently November 24, 1708, the property was again in escheat, according to “York County, Virginia Wills, Deeds and Orders:” “Inquisition, James City County, Virginia, 11 September 1717. It appears that Mihill Goen, late of said county of James City, dyed seized of 30 or 40 acres escheat 24 November 1708 by Christopher Jackson, surveyor of James City County is found to contain 37 acres.” “Mihil Goen” [either the estate of Mihil Goen or Mihil Gowen, Jr.] “transferred 37 acres of escheat land to Robert Hubbard February 2, 1718,” according to James City County Deed Book 9. The metes and bounds read: “Yorkhampton Parish; beginning at the corner of Mihil Goen, Hubbard & Francis Moreland, adjoining Graves Pack; down the Beach Spring Branch to the place called Horse Bridge,” according to James City County Patent Book 10, page 415. Other notes reveal: “Escheated from Mihil Goen, dec’d, by inquisition under Edmund Jennings, Esqr, Escheater 11 September, 1717.”
http://image.lva.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/drawer?retrieve_image=LONN&dir=/LONN/LO-1/006/006&image_number=0212&offset=%2B4&name=Patents+No.6+1666-1679+(PartI+%26+PartII)&dbl_pgs=no&round=

http://interactive.ancestry.com/48438/VALandRecords-003718-833/346345?backurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2fcgi-bin%2fsse.dll%3fdb%3dFLHG-VALandRecords%26gss%3dsfs28_ms_db%26new%3d1%26rank%3d1%26msT%3d1%26gsfn%3dAmbrose%26gsfn_x%3d0%26gsln%3dGowing%26gsln_x%3d0%26MSAV%3d0%26uidh%3dm37&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnSearchResults&rc=1010,952,1122,970;294,1685,426,1707;155,1737,250,1759;263,1736,397,1759#?imageId=VALandRecords-003131-246

1674 July 16 – Philip Gowen, a black servant, files a lawsuit for his freedom. Court: freedom suit Gowen v Jon Lucas, 16 July 1674, James City, Virginia, USA. 1 At General Court Phillip Gowen “negro” suing John Lucas for his freedom – freedom granted and Lucas to pay Gowen 3 barrels of corn according to the will of Mrs Amye Boazlye, deceased. The Petition of Philip Gowen for his Freedom.  [Philip Gowen sued for his freedom from his master, John Lucas, in June 1675. Perhaps he was a second son born to Mihill Gowen and Amy Barnhouse‘s enslaved woman Prosta.]

Phillip Gowen negro Suing Mr Jno Lucas to this Court for his freedome It is Orderd that the said Phill Gowen be free from ye Said Mr Lucas his Service and that the Indenture Acknowledg’d in Warwick County County [sic] be Invallid and that ye Said Mr Lucas pay unto ye Gowen three Barrels of Corne att the Cropp According to ye Will of Mrs Amye Boazlye decd wth Costs…
Source: McIlwaine, ed., Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia, p. 441. http://www.virtualjamestown.org/practise.html

This document provides a unique look at the status of African laborers in Virginia by clearly illustrating that fixed terms of indentured servitude existed, but also that they could be violated.

In 1675 Phillip Gowen, an African American indentured servant, petitioned the governor of Virginia for release from servitude. In his petition, Gowen gave a detailed history of his life in bondage and the injustice he was currently experiencing.

In 1664, Amy Beazley, Gowen‘s original owner, provided in her will that after serving her nephew, Humphrey Stafford, for eight years, Gowen was to be set free and given the usual “freedom dues” for an indenture, corn and a set of clothes.

Gowen indicated that Stafford sold him and his remaining indentured time to Charles Lucas. Gowen claimed that Lucas, instead of freeing him at the end of his eighth year of servitude, forced him to serve three additional years. Even worse, Gowen claimed that Lucas threatened him and forced him to sign an indenture for another twenty years.

Indentured servants, both black and white, were subject to exploitation by their masters. Many could not read and write, which made their situations even more challenging. This document was probably written by an attorney on behalf of Phillip Gowen because it follows the traditional form of petitions of the time, with which, as a servant, Gowen himself probably would not have been familiar.

Despite their low status, servants did have the right to petition the courts for help, as this document shows. Records indicate that the General Court of Virginia freed Gowen on June 16, 1675, and ordered Lucas to pay him three barrels of corn and court costs. The court also invalidated the twenty-year indenture Gowen claimed that Lucas had forced him to sign that was on file with the Warwick County Court.

Phillip Gowen‘s petition offers a window to explore the development of chattel slavery in colonial America. While Africans were brought to North America as captives, most were treated like indentured servants and were freed after their terms of service.

Gradually, during the 17th and 18th century, Virginia began to pass laws that made slavery— servitude for life — a reality for most people of African descent. Below is a brief timeline of such legislation and legal cases which show a decrease in freedom for African Americans:
• 1639—African Americans were excluded from being required to have firearms.
• 1640—John Punch, an African American indentured servant, was sentenced to a life of servitude after being caught running away from his master. The two white men who were with him only received one additional year on their indentures.
• 1643—Owners were taxed on African American women, but not white women laborers.
• 1662—The law declared that a person’s status depends on the status of the mother. This meant that children born to enslaved women would be slaves for life, under the law.
• 1667—The law declared that being a baptized a Christian did not change a person’s status as a servant or slave.
• 1669—A new law was established that it was not a punishable crime for a master to kill a slave in the process of “correcting” that slave.
• 1705—The law provided that “Negro, Mulatto, and Indians slaves” were considered to be property, or real estate, under the law. This same statute also declared that all Africans were considered to be slaves.
http://edu.lva.virginia.gov/online_classroom/lesson_plans/petition_of_phillip_gowen

PHILLIP GOWEN PETITION, JUNE 16, 1675
The practice of indentured servitude in England grew out of older feudal systems and apprenticeship practices that had their roots in the Middle Ages. The Virginia Company of London contracted with the first Virginia settlers for their labor, and, when the Company started trading land for service and tobacco became the first profitable cash crop, Virginia’s style of indentured servitude coalesced. By the 1620s, a standard system had been put into place whereby servants negotiated the terms of their indentures with a merchant, ship’s captain, or other agent before sailing to Virginia. Their indentures were then sold to planters when the servants arrived in the colony.

The beginning of lifelong servitude or slavery in Virginia is very hard to trace. There is evidence that Africans may have already been in the colony before the first documented appearance of them in John Rolfe’s 1619 letter, which mentions, “20. and odd Negroes” arriving in Jamestown.

Whether or not a person of African descent was held in slavery was a matter of circumstances unclear to modern historians.  The person’s status as a Christian or a non-Christian, and whether or not the person had previously been enslaved definitely affected how he or she was treated in the colony. The most important thing to note is that some African Virginians were not held as slaves at the beginning of the colony’s history.

Although many of the laws restricting African Virginians were passed in the 1660s, slavery did not become codified in Virginia law until 1705.

Phillip Gowen was the son of Mihill Gowen, a free African Virginian, who had once worked for Amye Beazlye, the woman who had freed Phillip in her will. This petition to Governor William Berkeley and the Council of State was probably written for Gowen by a person familiar with the petitioning process; the document makes use of standard structure and language of petitions from that era. Gowen sought relief from his new master, whom he declared was attempting to prolong his servitude. After reviewing the petition, the governor and council ordered that Gowen be freed. This document gives an example of the precarious situation of African Americans in the early colony before slavery was completely institutionalized.  http://edu.lva.virginia.gov/online_classroom/shaping_the_constitution/doc/gowenpetition

TRANSCRIPTION of Phillip Gowen‘s Petition: Page 1 of 1
To the Rt: Honble: Sr: William Berkeley knt: Governr: & Capt. Genll: Of Virga: with the Honbl: Councill of State:

The peticon of Phillip Gowen a Negro, In all humility Sheweth: That yor. petr. being a servt:  to Mrs. Amye Beazlye late of James Citty County Widdow decd. the said Mrs. Beazlye made her last will & testament in writtinge under her hand & seale, bearing date the 9th day of Aprill An Dom. 1664: and amongst other things, did order, will, & appoint, that yor. petr. by the then name of Negro Boy Phillip, should serve her Cousin Mr: Humphrey Stafford, the terme of Eight yeares then next ensueing, and then should Inioy his freedome & be paid three barrells of Corne & a suit of Clothes, As by the said will appeares, Soone after the makinge of which will, the said Mrs. Beazlye departed this life, and yor petr. did continue & abide with the said Mr. Stafford (with whome he was orderd by the said will to live) some years, and then the said Mr. Stafford sold the remainder of yor. petrr. time, to one Mr. Charles Lucas, with whome yor petr alsoe continued, doeing true & faithfull Service, but the said Mr: Lucas coveting yr petrs.

Service longer then of right itt was due, did not att the expiracon of the said Eight years, discharge yor petr. from his service, but compelled him to serve three yeares longer then the time sett by the said Mrs: Beazleys will, and then not being willing yr. petr. should Inioy his freedom, did contrary to all honesty & good conscience, with threats & a high hand, in the time of yor. petrs. Service with him, and by his confedracy with some persons, compell yor. petr. to sett his hand to a writeing, which the said Mr. Lucas now saith, is an Indenture for twenty yeares, and forcet yor. petr. to acknowledge the same in the County court of Warwick.

Now for that may itt please yor. honrs: yor. petr. was att the time of the makeing thes said forst writeing, in the service of the said Mr. Lucas and never discharged from the same, the said Mr: Lucas alwaies uniustly pretending that yor. petr. was to serve him three yeares longer, by an order of Court is untrue, which pretenses of the said Mr. Lucas will appeare to yor. honrs. by t[he] testimony of persons of good creditt: Yor: Petr. therefore most humbly prayeth yor. honrs. to order that the said writeing soe forced from him be made void; and that the ssid Mr. Luca[s] make him sattisfacion for the said three yeares service above his tim[e] and pay him Corne & Clothes with costs of Suite: And yor. petr. (as in duty bound) shall ever pray &c.

Source: Undated petition of Phillip Gowen to Governor Sir William Berkeley, ca. 1675. Colonial Papers, folder 19, no. 2, Record Group 1, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
[Proceeding from the 16th Day of June 1675]

Gowen vs Lucas – Phillip Gowen negro Suing Mr Jno Lucas to this Court for his freedome It is Ordered that the said Phill Gowen be free from ye Said Mr Lucas his Service and that the Indenture Acknowledg’d in Warwick County County [sic] be invalid and that ye Said Mr Lucas pay unto ye Gowen three Barrels of Corne att the Cropp According to ye Will of Mrs Amye Boazlye decd wth Costs
Source: H. R. McIlwaines, ed., Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonia Virginia, p. 441.
http://edu.lva.virginia.gov/docs/PhillipGowen1675transcription.pdf

(Note re Gowen Manuscript below:  The vast majority of the following information in the Gowen Manuscript about Mihil Gowen’s ancestry and descendants is very speculative – they are guesses at best – not to be taken as fact (regarding Mihil Gowen’s relation to the descendants listed), but possibilities that the researcher Paul Heinegg has posited and are repeated in the Gowen Manuscript).  

From Gowen Manuscript:  http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~gowenrf/gowenms001.htm

Mihil Gowen, a slave of Christopher Stafford of York County, Virginia, was given his freedom September 16, 1657 in two declarations made by Anne Barnhouse, sister of Stafford. The declarations, recorded in “York County, Virginia Wills, Deeds and Orders, 1657-1659,” made after the death of Stafford and after Mihil Gowen had served an additional four years with Robert Stafford, read:

“I, Anne Barnhouse of Martin Hundred, widow, have given Mihil Gowen, Negro, at this time servant to Robert Stafford, a male child born 25 August 1655 of the body of my Negro, Prossa, being baptized by Mr. Edward Johnson 25 September 1655 and named William, and I bind myself never to trouble Mihil Gowen or his son, William or demand any service of them. 16 September 1657.”

“Mihil Gowen, Negro, of late serving my brother Xtopher Stafford, dcsd, by his last will & testament, had his freedom given him after the expiration of 4 years service to my uncle, Robert Stafford. I, Anne Barnhouse do absolve, quit and discharge the said Mihil Gowen from my service 25 October 1657.
A. B. [The mark of Anne Barnhouse]
Witnesses: Arthur Dickenson Joseph Albrighton”

It is estimated that Mihil Gowen was born about 1630, place and parents unknown. Some researchers regard Mihil Gowen as a Portuguese Angolan, others a Melungeon; and others regard him as a mulatto. Apparently he came into the possession or employ of Capt. Christopher Stafford about 1645 perhaps on a voyage, perhaps on the docks of London. Capt. Richard Barnhouse was married to Anne Stafford, sister to Christopher Stafford.

Mihil Gowen may have served as a cabinboy on their ships. Capt. Stafford died about 1652, and Mihil Gowen was required to serve his uncle Robert Stafford an additional four years.

If the sailing records of Captains Stafford and Barnhouse could be located, some additional information about Mihil Gowen might be learned. Probate records of Captains Stafford and Barnhouse, if found in York County, might also reveal something.

Capt. Richard Barnhouse was born in England about 1595. He appears to be the “Richard Barnehouse of Bristol, sailor, aged 22, deposes July 28, 1617 that he has lived at Bristol for two years, and before that was a captive in Algiers,” according to “Genealogical Notes from the High Court of Admiralty Examinations” by J. R. Hutchinson, page 179. It is suggested that he was the Richard Barnhouse who gave bond to William Pester of Salem in 1638. Pester perhaps provided the ransom for his freedom in Algiers.

“Richard Barnhouse, Jr. appears as a resident of Gloucester County, Virginia in 1653, according to “Early Virginia Immigrants” by George Cabel Greer. “Capt. Richard Barnhouse” and “Richard Barnhouse, Gentleman” were residents of James City County, Virginia in 1656. Anne Stafford Barnhouse identifies herself as a widow August 25, 1655, suggesting that she was married to Richard Barnhouse, Sr.

It is unknown how the slave acquired the Scottish surname “Gowen.” If Mihil Gowen were a Portuguese Angolan, as the family tradition of Melungeon ancestry implies, then, in spec-ulation, his original name might have been the Portuguese surname Goyon. When anglicized, it emerged as Gowen.

Paul Heinegg, writing in “Free African Americans of North Carolina and Virginia” suggests that “John Geaween” was the father of Mihil Gowen. Geaween earned his freedom March 31, 1641, according to “Virginia Council and General Court Records, 1640-1641.”

John Geaween [Gowen?] was one of the first Africans to earn his freedom in Virginia according to “Virginia Magazine of History & Biography,” Volume XI, page 281. On March 31, 1641 the Virginia Court ordered:

“That John Geaween being a negro servant unto William Evans was permitted by his said master to keep hogs and made the best benefit thereof to him-self provided that the said Evans might have half the increase . . . and whereas the said negro having a young child of a negro woman belonging to Lieut Robert Sheppard . . . the said negro did for his said child purchase its freedom of Lieut. Robert Sheppard . . . the court hath therefore ordered that the child shall be free from the said Evans . .”

Tim Hashaw, Foundation member of Houston, Texas, wrote:

“Here’s the story on John Geaween’s mate. She was first known simply as Margarett, then later as Margarett Cornish. She was tried October 17, 1640 for having a child by Robert Sweat, a white man, whose descendant is Sande. Robert was required to confess in James City church, while Margarett, the negress was whipped.

Four months later, John Geaween purchased the freedom of his son by the negress slave woman of Robert Sheppard, regarded as Margarett Cornish. So she first had the son of John Geaween. They must have had some kind of marital arrangement because John Geaween was not punished for fathering the child. It appears then that after the discovery that she was bearing a white man’s child, John Geaween filed to get his son and have him raised in a Christian home. So there may have been some other circumstances involved in what is already historic: the first African purchasing his son’s freedom, aided by the fact that his “wife” had been involved in an adulterous affair. Such things were public scandals in 1640.

Still to be addressed is the possibility that Margarett came in on the White Lion in 1619, possibly as Paul Heinegg notes as a child then. We know women were among the 22 Africans be-cause of the presence of Issabella with Antony from the White Lion.”

Normally, under Virginia law, when a slave was set free, the minor children of his household were also freed. Mihil Gowen and “the negress Prossa” were the parents of William Gowen, “free colored” who was born August 25, 1655. William Gowen was given his freedom at the same time and with the same document that Mihil Gowen was freed.

Historian William Thornton reported that 32 Africans were listed in the Jamestown colony in its census of 1619.

The first shipment of slaves into Virginia now are identified as Portuguese Angolans by Engel Sluiter, a California historian who has delved into early Portuguese maritime records. The English colonists hardly knew what to do with the some two dozen blacks who landed from a Dutch ship at Jamestown in the summer of 1619.

There were no large plantations at that time to utilize slave labor. And the English colonists were accustomed to endentured servants who worked for their masters a specified number of years to pay for their passage to the New World and for their freedom–and they were unaccustomed to lifetime slavery.

Probably the condition of the slaves was not much worse than that of the endentured servants brought over from England. At times it might have been even better because the master had reason to take care of his slave who represented capital, whereas he had no similar incentive in regard to the condition of the endentured servant.

The development of slavery came extremely slow in Virginia. In 1681 only 2,000 black slaves were recorded there as opposed to 6,000 endentured servants. With the development of southern plantations, the importation of slaves rapidly increased. In 1754, 263,000 slaves were reported as taxable property. By 1860, 4,441,863 slaves were enumerated in the U.S. census.

Melungeon researchers point to several facts developed by Sluiter in his research suggesting that these early Angolan slaves were possibly a genetic component of the mysterious Melungeons. Many researchers have despaired of ever finding the origin of this enigmatic race. Their beginning has long been ob­scured in the mists of antiquity, but now progress is being reported in perhaps one genetic component of their forbears.

Most of the Angolans simply stepped off the gangplank into obscurity; only one possible member of the group, John Geaween, has been found in Colonial Virginia records examined thus far. By making a deal to raise hogs “on the halves” with his master, Geaween earned his freedom, according to “Virginia Council and General Court Records, 1640-1641.”

On March 31, 1641 the Virginia Court ordered:

“That John Geaween being a negro servant unto William Evans was permitted by his said master to keep hogs and made the best benefit thereof to himself provided that the said Evans might have half the increase . . . and whereas the said negro having a young child of a negro woman belonging to Lieut. Robert Sheppard . . . the said negro did for his said child purchase its freedom of Lieut. Robert Sheppard . . . the court hath therefore ordered that the child shall be free from the said Evans . .”

Sluiter determined that the Angolans were placed aboard the Portuguese merchant-slave ship “Sao Joao Bautisto” at the Angolan port of Sao Paulo da Luanda on the African west coast. The ship, heading for the New World, was attacked in the West Indes by the Dutch ship, and its human cargo fell into the hands of the privateers. The Dutch captain promptly set sail for Virginia to sell his human prize.

The Portuguese had fallen into the slave trade by accident. Toward the close of the war with the Moors, the Portuguese captured a group of Moorish prisoners-of-war. The Moroccans offered an even larger group of Blacks to secure the release of the Moors, and the Portuguese accepted the ransom. Immediately they were in business.

In 1420 Prince Henry the Navigator came to power in Portugal and immediately set about to build up a navy and a merchant fleet. He organized skilled map makers, ship builders, navigators and seamen into an immense maritime task force in an effort to dominate the world’s sealanes.

His aims were five-fold: He wanted to develop a Portuguese empire. He wanted to explore for a sea route to reach India and its lucrative spice trade. He wanted to fight the Muslims on their own soil. He wanted to accommodate the Catholics in their desire to Christianize the world. And he wanted to finance all of this expansion with the African slave trade.

His efforts were imminently successful. Portuguese captains in 1430 claimed Madiera, the Canary Islands and the Azores, uninhabited until then. Quickly the Cape Verde Islands, “Sao Tome & Principe, Guinea and Mozambique were added to the Empire. In 1488 Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope and discovered the coveted Spice Route. Vasco da Gama in 1497 claimed Brazil. In 1506 Adm. Tristao da Cunha discovered the South Atlantic island that still bears his name today. The Portuguese Navy wiped out the Muslim Navy in a sea battle off Diu in 1509. Pedro Alvarez Cabral reached China in 1542 and established Macao in 1557.

Probing the West African coast, they reached the mouth of the Congo River in 1482 and claimed 1,000 miles of the coast as Angola. Paulo Dias de Novais founded Luanda as its capital in 1576 and brought in the Catholic Church who began to convert the inhabitants, scattered over 481,000 square miles, an area almost 150 times larger that Portugal itself. A native monarchy, the Manicongo, sought conversion and alliance with the Portuguese. As a result, today 3,000,000 Angolans are Catholic.

In contrast to the colonization efforts of the British, the French and the Dutch, the Portuguese did not plant colonies. They organized each territory as a state in the Portuguese nation, and the inhabitants of each became Portuguese.

Thus when the Portuguese Angolans stepped of the gangplank in Jamestown in 1719, they were Portuguese citizens, spoke the Portuguese language and were Christians. Perhaps they eventually linked up with the descendants of the Portuguese survivors of the Spanish colony of Santa Elena which was established by Capt. Joao Pardo in 1566 in present-day Parris Island, South Carolina.

It is suggested that it was their descendants that Capt. John Sevier encountered in the Appalachians when he was dispatched by John Murray Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia. His mission was to pacify the Indians before the outbreak of Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774.

In a report to Lord Dunmore, Capt. Sevier mentioned his encounter with a mysterious people he found west of the mountains. He described them as dark skinned, of reddish-brown complexion, neither Negro nor Indian, but with European features and who claimed to be Portuguese.

Another description of the possible Melungeons was given by early explorers Abraham Wood and James Needlum. According to Wood’s journal, “Eight days journey down this river lives a white people which have long beards and whiskers and weares clothing.”

Samuel Cole Williams, LLD, wrote in “Early Travels in the Tennessee Country,” “There is a tradition among the early Cherokees that they respected a settlement of white men among them.” “Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee” by Haywood also deals with the early white men who lived among the Cherokees. Mention is made that they displayed a cross, iron implements and were called to assembly by a bell, suggesting a Catholic influence.

Tim Hashaw, an investigative reporter of Houston, Texas wrote September 7, 2000:

“Engel Sluiter quotes the Spanish captain as saying there was at least two English corsairs involved in the raid on the slave ship Baustista. Furthermore, the Dutch ship is said to be a vessel from Flushing by an official of the Virginia colony who was present when it landed. Others saw the Dutch and the English ships together, while others recount the Dutch story of how they had been separated briefly in the Indies. “The Treasurer” arrived in Jamestown just four days after the Dutch dropped off its Africans. I know that at least one African female was taken off “The Treasurer.” This colony official is therefore the third eyewitness who places the Dutch man o war at Jamestown in 1619.

There is no doubt that the Flushing ship and the English “Treasurer” were both present at the pillaging of the Bautista’s slave cargo. He says the Dutch and English ships had a consortship as early as in the Netherlands to go pirating together. Both ships were illegally involved in privateering against the Spaniards.

Thorton pretty much nails down the specific area of Angola hit by the Portuguese and their cannibalistic mercernaries. It was in the Melanje highlands and a royal capital was the target. He also describes the condition of the slave prison at Luanda. We can pretty much point directly to the community from whence the Bautista’s Africans came. The best books about this are all in German!

I have also come across several more Spanish/Porto surnames among blacks in the Virginia colony which will support the Angola/Kongo Portuguese position. In addition, a third ship I have found which arrived in the late 1620s may actually be the ship upon which John Geaween arrived if not aboard the Dutch in 1619.

There is one other angle I would like to probe. When did the Melanje district of Angola receive its name? I know that “Melanje” is a Zulu word for white men, in their case the only white men were Portuguese. This does not necessarily mean that the Angolan place name came from the Zulu. But if Thorton is correct, and the Africans aboard the Dutch at Jamestown were all from one Angolan community, well then it is very possible that “Melanje” was remembered by them and used to describe themselves. Later it was anglicized to “Melungeon. This will be difficult to prove. I must learn if Melanje is an ancient name for the area. If so, the “Mystery of the Melungeons” may after about 150 years of published use, be finally solved.”

In February 1668, Mihil Gowen received a deed for “30 or 40 acres,” according to “York County, Virginia Wills, Deeds and Orders.” It is unknown why land transactions involving James City County land would be recorded in adjoining York County records. The deed read:

“Mihill Gowree. 30 or 40 acres situated in Merchants Hundred Parish in James City County, formerly belonging to John James, decd, and by him purchased of Capt. Richard Barnhouse and lately bound to escheat [forfeiture and reversion to the crown] and by a jury for said county under hand and seal of Col. Miles Carey, 20 December 1666 and now granted to said Gowree 8 February 1668.”

By the time Mihil Gowen died, apparently November 24, 1708, the property was again in escheat, according to “York County, Virginia Wills, Deeds and Orders:”

“Inquisition, James City County, Virginia, 11 September 1717. It appears that Mihill Goen, late of said county of James City, dyed seized of 30 or 40 acres escheat 24 November 1708 by Christopher Jackson, surveyor of James City County is found to contain 37 acres.”

“Mihil Goen” [either the estate of Mihil Goen or Mihil Gowen, Jr.] “transferred 37 acres of escheat land to Robert Hubbard February 2, 1718,” according to James City County Deed Book 9. The metes and bounds read:

“Yorkhampton Parish; beginning at the corner of Mihil Goen, Hubbard & Francis Moreland, adjoining Graves Pack; down the Beach Spring Branch to the place called Horse Bridge,” according to James City County Patent Book 10, page 415.

Other notes reveal: “Escheated from Mihil Goen, dec’d, by inquisition under Edmund Jennings, Esqr, Escheater 11 September, 1717.”

There is no evidence that Anne Barnhouse gave Prossa Gowen her freedom. Paul Heinegg suggests that Mihil Gowen, as a free man, may have taken another wife, a white woman, since there may not have been any more black women in the colony at that time.

Children born to Mihil Gowen and Prossa Gowen include:

William Gowen born August 25, 1655

Possible children of Mihil Gowen and his second wife include:

Mihil Gowen, Jr. born about 1656
Daniel Gowen born about 1657 (unkown – nothing connecting them)
Christopher Gowen born about 1658 (unkown – nothing connecting them)
Jason Gowen born about 1659 (unkown – nothing connecting them)
Thomas Gowen born about 1660 (doubtful – nothing connecting them – and evidence on Thomas “Gowing’s” page on this site seems to indicate this is NOT correct)
James Gowen born about 1663 (unkown – nothing connecting them)

(Note:  There is no evidence that Thomas Gowen (or Gowing) b. 1660 was a child of Mihil Gowen – they never lived in the same counties, nor were there any transactions between them, or between people they knew.  The same can be said for ).

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