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Charles Gee I of Prince George County, Virginia
Henrico County was one of the four shires founded by the Virginia Company along the James River. The other three were Charles City, James City and Elizabeth City. Henrico was the most western of the shires and was located in the vicinity of Richmond. Charles City was east of Henrico. Prince George County was formed in 1702 from the portion of Charles City south of the James River.
Charles City County and Martin’s Brandon Parish
Martin and his twenty to thirty associates arrived in Virginia aboard the Edwin in May, 1617 and settled above upper Chipoakes Creek on the south side of the James. There was a high death rate in the first summer of 1617. In October, 1618 the Gift of God was then sent by the society of Martin’s Hundred to Virginia with 250 settlers. Later, 31 maids and widows were sent to eventually be purchased for tobacco by freemen or tenants who desired a wife. In 1621 it was reported that 118 were killed by Indians at Martin’s Hundred, but only the names of 78 are known. Another report by the Virginia Company states that the death toll was about 400. The settlements in Henrico and the area of Charles City County above the Appomattox River were wiped out. At Falling Creek everything was destroyed and the iron-works there was destroyed. The settlements along Chipoakes Creek were severely damaged including those located at Flower-dieu Hundred. In July, 1623, Thomas Locke wrote that at Martin’s Hundred, nearly all were killed, being 329 persons. In June, 1979, National Geographic published an informative article regarding the archeological excavations and analysis of settlement in Martin’s Hundred on the north side of the James River. It is clear from this article that the settlers came with ambitions to set up manufacturing as well as agricultural enterprises.
In 1623, the will of William Whitehead of London, gentleman, bequeathed money to build a school or church at Martin’s Hundred, Virginia. In 1621, Mr. Chamberlayne recommended Mr. Staples, a preacher whose brother was residing in Virginia, to the Virginia Company and some of the residents of Martins Hundred were willing to have him come.
Only a few Charles City County records have been preserved, including the record book for 1655 to 1665. No Gees are found in these records. W. J. Fletcher tells us the only extant Prince George Record Books prior to 1800 are for the years 1713-1726 and 1787-1792. The early records of Martins Brandon Parish, which served the area where Charles lived, have been destroyed so there are no birth, marriage or death records. It seems both Cornwallis and Grant waged war in the county. The 1704-05 quit rent rolls are the only tax records for the Virginia prior to 1782. A few earlier lists of titheables for the Anglican Parish exist in Surry County but no Gees are listed on these. Because the records are so scant, it is difficult to determine much about Charles.
Charles County Records for Charles Gee
2-4-1688: Charles Gee cobfesons judgt. (confesses judgment) to Col. Edw. Hill for 1,300 lbs. tobo.
2- 1689: Charles City Co., Charles Gee gets 100 acres from Drew Scott
3-24-1691: Charles Gee has suits against 2 different men
12-4-1693: A deed of division of land mutually acknowledged in court to each other by John Scott & Charles Gee is recorded
12-5-1693: In action of debt of Charles Goodrich, assignee of John Scott, against Alex. Davison, a suit granted to the defendant; Charles Gee on the jury
12-5-1693: In action of debt for 530 lbs. of tobacco by Charles Goodrich, assignee of Edw. Chilton, against Charles Gee; case dismissed, for debt appears to have been paid
3 Aug. 1694: Charles Gee sworn in as member of grand jury
5 Aug. 1695: Commission of administration of late Morris Caligham granted already. Robert Reives & Sarah, his wife, Executrix of Morris Caligham, exhibit inventory of estate. Robert Reives, Thomas Anderson & Charles Gee give 6,000 lbs. tobacco bond for administration of above estate by Robert Reives & Sarah, his wife, to see that legacies are paid.
5 Aug. 1695: Bond of Robert Reives, Thomas Anderson & Charles Gee to pay the orphans of Morris Caligham, when they come of age, such estate as belongs to them and payment by Sarah, the Executrix of Caligham, now wife of said Reives
15 Oct. 1695: Charles City is Dr. (owes) these persons following; viz: Charles Gee, wolves killed with gun 200, Henry Jones 200, John Jones 200, etc. ( This record is exempting tobacco from being taxed for killing wolves, and the 200 is not the number of wolves killed but the value given for them in deferred tax.)
In the 1704-05 quit rent rolls where Charles Gee is taxed for 484 acres in Prince George Countyc
Charles evidently arrived in Charles City County after 1665 as he is absent from the 1655-1665 record book. It is unclear where he was before this, but it seems he may have been in Isle of Wight County at some time along the area that became North Carolina at the time the dividing line was surveyed.
Charles married Hannah around 1693 or a few years earlier. He owed 1300 pounds of tobacco to Colonel Edward Hill in 1688 so it is very likely that Charles was firmly established before this debt was incurred. Tradition has been Hannah was a Drury. The name Drury was used by James Gee, their eldest son and his descendents. However, there is evidence that the Drury name was linked to the family of James’ wife, the Scotts. It was a first name that was used by several families living near the Gees in Surry and Sussex Counties, many clearly related to the Scott family. There is no proof of Hannah’s surname. Her likely family is explored further in Hannah Gee’s Family.
Charles and Hannah had five known children. Life expectancy improved dramatically by the end of the seventeenth century as diet and living conditions improved, but it is reasonable to assume that Charles and Hannah suffered the loss of at least one child. She may also not have been his first wife. Their sons were James, Charles II, our ancestor, Henry and possibly Robert. There may also have been another, unidentified son who died before his father, who married Hannah Atkinson, but this is unclear. They also are believed to be the parents of Elizabeth wife of William Heath, and most likely had other daughters. James evidently was the eldest son. He was born in 1694 and received an education as he was able to read and write and conducted the family’s legal affairs. Charles Gee I died in 1709 and Hannah died May 14, 1728.
It would seem Charles initially settled along Chipoakes Creek on the west side in what became Prince George County. The Heaths were living along Chipoakes Creek on the Surry side as early as 1668 and the Cookes were neighbors of the Heaths by 1694. This area along Chipoakes Creek was more established and Charles and Hannah probably went there for access to ships from England and merchants. About 1670 to 1680 Charles relocated to the 484 acres along Warwick Swamp. It was at this time that this area was opened up by settlers from the shoreline of the James River.
A deed is recorded in 1707 in which Charles sells 125 acres north of Joseph Swamp in Surry County. The records of Surry are nearly complete and this is the first mention of Charles in them. The purchase of this land probably was recorded in Prince George and is lost to us. Charles was also granted at least 640 acres in North Carolina in the area north of the Meherrin River in what was then called the Albermarle District. This land lay just across the border with Virginia but at that time the border was a vague, frequently changing line. It is likely it was recorded as being in Isle of Wight County. In 1716, Captain James Gee, his eldest son, sold this 640 acre North Carolina tract to William Bridges of Isle of Wight County. The deed reads:
James Gee of Surry County, Virginia, to William Bridges, of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, 640 acres on north side of Meherrin River, September 15, 1716, testified to by James Gee and John Nairne, also patent granted to Charles Gee, heired by me for him. This evidently was not the only land Charles patented in North Carolina.
The Abstracts of Vol. I, p. 855 of the Colonial Records of North Carolina relates that at a meeting in the home of Captain John Heckelfield in Little River, on July 4, 1712, William Maule and John Council stated that three tracts of land formerly patented by Charles Gee upon the Northside of Morratock River (Roanoke) had lapsed …for want of a seating and asked that the same be granted to them. This was done and the deed was transferred in 1715. Later, in 1729, John Council of Isle of Wight County, Virginia sold to Solomon Alston of Bertie Precinct, for 10 ₤ current money, 100 acres. This land seems to be very close to the 640 acres purchased by Charles Gee I.
The only other record we have of Charles is the appraisal and inventory of his estate, which gives us a good clue about what his life was like and how well he did. The appraisers of his estate were William Heath and John and William Cooke. It was customary for relatives to do the appraising and act as witnesses to wills and as executors of estates.
The appraisal is only for personal property and does not include buildings, land or even stored crops, fodder or tobacco. There doesn’t appear to be any set rule for the appraising of estates in colonial Virginia. Some inventories include food and harvested crops others do not. His personal estate was valued at 20,652 pound of tobacco. Three Indian slaves, two women and a girl were valued at an additional 10,400 pound of tobacco.
Charles was a gentleman, which placed him amongst the governing members of the community. Listed in his personal effects are two pistols, holsters and a sword. This is the outfit of a gentleman, also known as Troopers Arms, and indicates that he participated in the defense of the settlements against Indian attack. Charles founded a family of prosperous planters who lived throughout the South. While he and his sons were not grandees they faired better than most Virginia settlers and were among the gentlemen planters of Southside Virginia. Charles and his sons achieved the dream of middle class Englishmen to become landed gentlemen.
Inventory and Appraisement of the estate of Charles Gee Deceased
(Copied from the clerk’s entry in the Surry record book)
Twelve cows and calves
Five barren cows
One Young bull
Seven young cattle
One young mare
Thirty one hoggs (hogs)
Twelve young hoggs
Nineteen young hoggs
And ten other
One feather bed, boulster, Rugg & Sheets (boulster is a long pillow)
One small feather bed, boulster, pillows, sheets
One feather bed, boulster, Rugg & Sheet, Curtains & Vallances & pillars
One feather bed, boulster, Rugg, two pair Sheets
One bed and Sheets
All his wearing clothes and Lining (possibly linen)
One God Ring
A parcell of plate britt or slats cutt (a parcel of plate bright or slats cut)
One Sadle (saddle), bridle, pistolls, houlsters and Sword
One old Side Sadle and Bridle
Half a thousand pins (straight pins for sewing)
One Spice Mortar and pestell (pestle)
One Cros (cross) cut Saw, file and rest
Four pewter porringers
Sixty-eight pounds of other pewter (dishes were made of pewter, a metal similar to tin in weight and appearance)
A parcel of pewter more
One Salt Sellar (used to keep salt dry)
A parcell of Spoons
One Pewter bason (basin)
One copper pint pott
One flesh hook and ladle (for cooking)
Two old brass Kettles (probably for making beer)
Three iron potts
Two iron spitts
One warming pan
Two Candlesticks and Snufflers (to put out the candle)
Two pair of fire tongs and One grid Iron
One Sett of Coopers tools (coopers made wooden barrels)
A parcel of Carpenters tools
Wheel Rites tools (for fixing wagon wheels)
A pair of Stilliards and hooks (stilliards are used for weighing)
Two pair hooks and hinges
One Sodd Iron (an iron plow)
And one grub hoe
Three iron wedges (used to split timbers)
Three Narrow Axes
Three Iron hinges
A parcell of old iron
One Looking Glass (a mirror)
One table, cloth and napkins
One Rasour, Koome and Syzers (razor, comb and scissors)
One bottle Cruse and Mugg (wine?)
Four Spinning Wheels
Two pair of Cards (probably one was for wool the other for flax)
Two Chests and One trunk
One Meal Sifters (to sift lumps and bugs out of meal or flour)
A parcell of Nails (expensive, as were the straight pins)
Two tobacco Casks and pailes
Twenty pound of Cotton in ye Store (probably a warehouse on the James River)
Three small tubs One churn
One old paile
One Loombe Slay and Harnis (Loom and the working mechanism for making
One small table
Inventory of Charles Gee, 5 July 1709
One Indian woman 3600 pounds tob.
One Indian woman 4400
One Indian girl 2400
Valuation of his slaves
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The Gee Farm
Charles and Hanah evidently first resided at the head of Upper Chippokes Creek, the swamp that divided Surry and Charles City Counties. The plantation which was taxed in Prince George County in 1704 was 439 acres, and appears to have been located between Joseph and Warwick Swamps and very close to the Surry (later Sussex) County line. This area south of the Blackwater was new land. Prior to this period of time the land south of the Blackwater belonged to the Powhattan. After Charles died, Hannah purchased additional acreage. In 1713 she bought 100 acres from James Odium. In 1715 she bought 200 acres from John Mason. Both of these tracts of land were located on the north side of Warwick Swamp in Prince George County. This was near Disputanta.
When Hannah died she left these 300 acres to her son Henry who had probably remained with his mother helping her manage the plantation. The deed reads …in consideration of the natural love and affection which I have and do bear unto my son Henry Gee…. James, the eldest, seems to have received the bulk of the estate including land located in North Carolina. His brothers, Charles II and Robert likely received assistance in purchasing their plantations prior to Hannah’s death in 1728, but there is no record.
James added acreage to the original Prince George tract by purchasing tracts in Surry (Sussex) County. In his will James left the original 439 acres in Prince George to his son Charles Sr. Charles Sr. had been living on this plantation when James died in 1760. Charles Sr. also received 174 acres in Prince George that was known as Howard’s. To his son Henry, James left the Sussex plantation located south of Warwick Swamp that had been the home plantation of James and Boyce Scott. This was two tracts of land, one of 490 acres the other of 390 acres. Henry’s sons left Sussex for Southampton County, Virginia before 1800. James left an additional 183 acres between Joseph and Warwick Swamps in Prince George County to the heirs of his deceased son James Jr. The heirs of James Jr. went to South Carolina after 1783.
In 1782 Charles Sr. was taxed for the original 439 acres in Prince George. After his death his wife was taxed for this land and his son John for the tract known as Howard’s. After 1795 Charles Jr., son of Charles Sr., was taxed for the 439 acres in Prince George County. By 1812 he had added 354 acres in Prince George County.
In 1850 Thomas, son of Charles Jr., left in his will the brick house plantation of 1358 acres in Sussex County to his son Thomas William Gee. It seems clear that this plantation house was built by Charles Gee, son of James, and was not the original farm of Hanah and Charles Gee. A map in 1864 shows three Gee farms in Prince George County about three miles from the Sussex line near Warwick and Joseph Swamps. Thomas William Gee was a wealthy bachelor who died in 1868. He was the last Gee to own the plantation and he left large cash gifts to several former slaves who had cared for him during …many years of sickness and suffering.
It becomes clear the Gee Farm Road which lies just south of the Sussex Court Road (40) and runs parallel to highway 95, southeast of the village of Stony Creek, named for the stream of the same name, is much further south than land denoted on the 1864 map, and bears no relation to the deeds held by James Gee on Warwick, Joseph and Second Swamps. The only deed granted to a member of the Gee family in the early years along Stony Creek was located in Lunenburg County. The plantation identified with this road into the late 1930’s was a different farm. I am reminded of the road named for my grandfather. It runs along a small section of ground he always leased out, and on which they lived for only a few years before his death. It is removed from his large farm or the home he built there, which despite its beauty, fell into ruin after he sold his land, and is now only a memory. For more information see the The Grandchildren of Captain James Gee and Boyce Scott where the expansion of the plantation is documented.
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Life on the Plantation
Over the years Charles acquired more land. In 1707 he sold 125 acres in Surry County. We also know of 640 acres located in North Carolina adjacent to the Virginia border. He probably owned more as it appears Charles was a speculator in land. Some of this land was probably sold to finance the building of a plantation home. This was the pattern for most early Virginians who had the means.
Charles most likely obtained some of his land in Virginia through the headrights system. This allowed anyone who paid the passage of an immigrant to the Virginia Plantations to obtain a grant for fifty acres that could be located anywhere on Crown lands in the Virginia Colony. This system was filled with abuse. The captain of the transporting ship would claim headrights for his passengers, particularly the indentured servants, and often sold the land to speculators. The broker who bought indentured servants brought over from England would claim fifty acres for each servant. Finally, the planter who bought the indentured servant’s contract from the broker would claim fifty acres for each servant. This led to duplications in the records, often with different years attributed to a name. By 1705 the Crown began selling headrights of fifty acres for five shillings because of the impossibility of validating passage claims.
When Charles arrived in Prince George his first task was to provide himself a place to live. This was probably a small cabin or hut with a thatch roof. It was a temporary shelter. The chimney was a catted clay chimney. Cats were made of straw and clay that had been worked together and formed into short log-shaped rolls. Four vertical poles served as the corners and the rolls were tightly stacked between these to from the walls of the chimney. House fires were common because the clay soon dried out and separated from the straw that could then ignite. The fire would quickly spread to the thatch roof.
At first living was not very comfortable, and it was never easy. The first priority Charles had was getting his tobacco crop started. Raising tobacco was a year round job that required a great deal of labor. Tobacco needed constant attention. The first step was to clear a seedbed that he did by cutting and burning brush. As soon as the winter frost thawed the new ground had to be dug and raked and sown with the dust fine tobacco seed. Tobacco seed was always planted in new ground so this process was repeated every year. Sowing was usually done in March or early April in Virginia.
While Charles waited for the seed to sprout and grow he set about preparing the field. Land deeds note birch, oak and ash as growing in this area. Wild pine, sorrel and sedge also were common. Because a good part of the land was probably wooded, Charles used techniques learned from the Indians to clear the land quickly and with a minimum of labor. The brush and small tress were burnt. The larger trees were girdled, a ring of bark being removed. This cause the tree to die allowed the light to filter down to the field, and in time the dead wood was either pulled down or burnt. As time allowed Charles would fell some trees for lumber, fire wood and fence rails, as well as barrel staves and slats.
To prepare the field the earth was broken up with an ox drawn plow. If he needed he could hire a plow and ox from a neighbor to break his ground. Using a hoe, the earth was worked again and drawn into rows of small hills as high as the knee. These Charles flattened on top. In May or June, as soon as the seedlings were big enough, Charles waited for the first good rain then he quickly set the seedlings in the hills. During the long growing season he continuously hoed, building up the hills and removing any weeds. With summer he moved from plant to plant pinching off the flower buds at the top of the five-foot stalks and removing the extra sprouts at the base. This made all the nourishment go to the leaves. Often worms attacked the plants and had to be picked off. This was a daily chore during the growing season.
As summer drew to an end Charles prepared for harvest. In late August the leaves reached full ripeness. The mature plants were harvested first and it all had to be done before the first frost. The ripe leaves were cut off close to the stock and a sharpened stick was stuck through the stems. These sticks of tobacco were then hung in a ventilated tobacco barn which was not much larger than a tool shed or small garage. In most years air cured the leaves, but if it was a wet fall, fires had to be built and tended to smoke the tobacco. Charles probably built his tobacco barn as soon as he got the seedlings transplanted to the field. It was constructed of thin pine logs without clay chinking.
When the tobacco was cured, usually in early winter, Charles stripped the leaves from the sticks culled and carefully gathered them into flat, fan shaped hands. These he then stacked into bundles about thirty inches high for storage until shipment the following summer when the tobacco fleet arrived.
Charles had no time to rest. He had to arrange for the packing and shipment of his crop. Tobacco was packed in hogsheads. These casks held 500 pounds of tightly packed tobacco. The casks were homemade of straight staves, loosely fitted and hooped with split saplings. A hogshead was four feet high and two and a half feet in diameter. If Charles had less than a cask of tobacco he needed to sell his unpacked crop, at a discount, to the local grandee. If he had enough for a cask then he could arrange for another planter to pack it.
Charles may have decided to make his own cask and build his own packing press the first year. His tobacco press was a lever placed overhead on a sturdy vertical post and attached at one end by a rope to a long pole. Ropes from this long pole suspended a platform piled with heavy stones. At the opposite end of the pole was a box- shaped press that was constructed of short sturdy logs.
While Charles owned land near several inland watercourses they flowed south into North Carolina. Charles shipped his tobacco overland to the James River. One cask of tobacco was usually rolled to market. An axle was thrust through the cask and a supporting wooden frame to which cattle were hitched. The rolling roads made by these overland treks to the docks were called tobacco roads. Many of these later became plank roads. When his crop was larger Charles probably shipped several casks by wagon or sled. The inventory of his estate includes cooper’s tools form making casks and barrels and wheel rite tools for repairing wagon wheels.
The tobacco was shipped from the nearest dock on the James River that usually belonged to a wealthy landowner who acted as a factor. To ship his crop Charles may have paid a visit to a representative of one of the factors who made fortunes acting as middlemen. This may have been Colonel Hill, or a representative of Micajah Perry. Perhaps it was a representative of William Byrd or a Harrison from Surry County. There were several grandees who built grand estates along the north side of the James River.
Charles may have contacted the local representative of a factor or merchant in England that he had made financial arrangements with before coming to Virginia. This may have been a relative, as often was the situation. Col. Edward Hill evidently was a factor Charles used, perhaps to import his utensils and furnishings. We find that Charles owed a large sum to Hill in 1688.
In the records of the London Port Book, in 1627 and 1628, Thomas Gee, merchant, was importing modest quantities of Virginia tobacco. He imported tobacco shipped on the Hopewell, Richard Russell, master. Mr. Richard Russell was also noted as a merchant. In June of 1634 there was a trial regarding tobacco that was landed at night evidently to avoid duties. The tobacco belonged to Thomas Gee and he was suing to have it released to him. The port authorities had seized the tobacco. In 1666 the London records note Thomas Gee, Captain with tobacco from Virginia. Thomas Gee, merchant, exported 30 lbs. of woolen goods to Virginia on the Diligence, John Barten, master. And, in 1678 he again imported 600 pounds of tobacco from Virginia.
The same records also note John Gee in 1677 as a merchant who imported a significant amount of tobacco. He was credited with 8,000 pounds through John Warner, ship’s master. This may be the same Coll. John Gee noted in 1655 in the records of Surry County, Virginia.
Often ship’s captains acted on behalf of English merchants and factors. Either a merchant or the grandee would arrange for Charles to receive credit upon shipment from his factor in England. When the ship sailed the captain carried a list from Charles for a variety of manufactured goods that Charles needed to make his life better. The tobacco trade was actually a barter system whereby the planters exchanged their crop for English products and the merchants maintained a ledger of credits and debits based on the price of the tobacco, less shipping costs and the price of finished goods shipped. Money was in scarce supply in the colonies and taxes and tithes were paid in tobacco.
Many of the items in Charles estate came from England, iron pots, brass kettles, the looking glass, pewter dishes, basins, utensils, hoes, axes and his sodd iron (plow) all were English products. Even pins and nails, shoes and woolen goods came from across the Atlantic.
Charles could only raise four tobacco crops in a field then the land was soured for twenty years. The second year was usually the best crop. Tobacco pulls nitrogen and potash from the soil and crop rotation was not practiced. Once a field was sour it was fenced for livestock, cattle and swine to manure. It is clear Charles was raising hogs and cattle to sell. Some cattle were probably shipped to the West Indies and the tobacco fleet purchased some. Cattle were a ready source of credit for Charles and were probably his most profitable product in some years. Most cattle ran wild like swine. Charles branded his by notching the ears in a pattern registered with the county clerk. In 1672-73 the winter was so hard that half the cattle died, but winters in Virginia were usually no danger to stock.
Charles was probably a prudent planter and only put ten percent of his land in tobacco at any one time. This allowed him to raise flax for linen, corn, possibly barley and wheat on the rest of his land, and also allowed him room for his stock which he certainly penned on the sour fields. Charles evidently augmented his income from tobacco, hogs and cattle with the production of cloth. It seems clear that the three Indian slaves were used for spinning flax and possibly some cotton. Four spinning wheels were twice the number needed by even the largest families. Charles owned a loom, which was very rare, even in 1709. In all likelihood he had served an apprenticeship as a weaver before coming to Virginia. This was his trade, and he was paid by the county court for his cloth production, but was forbidden to export it to England or another colony. Charles also raised money be killing wolves. He could turn in the pelts for credit against his taxes, a significant expense.
The tobacco of southeastern Virginia where Charles lived was never as good as the tobacco grown along the tidelands of Northern Virginia. Even the best Virginia tobacco was course and similar to today’s chewing tobacco. The finest tobacco was the sweet Spanish tobacco grown in South America. For several years after 1676 the price of tobacco was depressed. In 1679 and 1680 the crops were so large that English merchants had a two-year supply in storage. When the English government proposed banning the growing of tobacco until 1681, there were riots. However, until the middle of the 18th century the profits from tobacco were so good it dominated the activity of virtually every planter.
Charles and Hannah also raised nearly all their own food and their daily diet was pretty dull and tasteless. Between a breakfast of mush diluted with milk or molasses and something very similar for supper came the main meal. It was served between noon and three o’clock during the heat of the day. This was a stew made from seasonal ingredients cooked in a single pot. It required little tending or time to prepare. Charles probably was not fond of vegetables, which were considered food for hogs and beasts by most of his day. His garden contained corn, beans and pumpkin. The corn was planted first. Charles, after preparing the ground, poked a hole with a small stick and dropped several kernels in every three or four feet. Later he scooped soil around the seedlings for support and fertilized the plants with fish. When the corn stalks were two or three feet high he planted beans and pumpkins around them. The corn stalks served as beanpoles and shaded the pumpkin vines.
After Charles and Hannah married the garden became her responsibility. She probably planted additional root crops they were familiar with such as turnips, parsnips, carrots and onions. These she cooked to a tasteless pulp or added to the watery stew pot. Hannah probably also planted thyme, marjoram, parsley and hyssop for seasonings. While sweet potatoes were native to Virginia most early immigrants disliked their unfamiliar taste so they probably weren’t a part of Hannah’s garden. With time Charles would have planted an orchard. Also, the countryside had a variety of wild berries that were available for gathering. Later, these wild berries became cultivated varieties in most gardens. Pies were often made from pumpkin that Hannah would also serve boiled and mashed with butter. She also cut pumpkin into strips and dried it for storage.
As soon as he could Charles got a brewing kettle for making beer. Nearly every cottage in Virginia had one. The big kettle sat in a corner of the house and Charles would have made his beer from corn. Beer was consumed with every meal, including breakfast, because it was safer than water to drink.
Corn and pork were the two staples of every colonist’s diet. Hannah pounded the corn into powder called samp that they ate hot or cold with milk and butter for breakfast. Succotash made from corn and beans was eaten for supper. In late August they enjoyed corn on the cob or corn that was cooked in hot ashes, pounded to a coarse powder and eaten like peanuts. Their favorite way of preparing corn was to make hominy. Hominy required a great deal of work for Hannah. She scalded the shelled corn in water and wood ash, then washed and soaked it. Next she boiled the corn until it was soft, white and plump. Some Hannah stored, after drying, for winter. The finer grained hominy became grits for breakfast. Virginians were fond of boiling hominy with beans and milk until it was firm. This they ate with pork or other meat, hot or cold. Hog and hominy was a favorite.
Hogs roamed loose in the woods during most of the seventeenth century until the countryside became populated. Charles probably kept his penned but he still fenced his garden for protections. All of the hog was used.
Hogs roamed loose in the woods during most of the seventeenth century until the countryside became populated. Charles probably kept his penned but he still fenced his garden for protection. All of the hog was used. The intestines were casings for sausage. The bladder was used to hold lard. Leather was sewn with the long hair. Hannah would smoke, pickle or salt it for storage. It took the meat of four good-sized hogs to feed their family through winter. In addition to pork, Charles most certainly added fish and game to his family’s diet. His inventory does not list a gun, but includes pistols, their holster, and a sword. It seems the absence of a gun was an oversight as it is a staple in nearly every inventory, even in the poorest households. Shooting game was an essential way to supplement the family’s diet.
The inventory of their estate lists ten other livestock that most likely were gees and possibly chickens. Chickens became popular during the late part of the seventeenth century when it was discovered that they liked corn. It seems clear that Hannah also had geese as she had quite a few feather beds.
Charles and Hannah probably had bad teeth simply because most colonists did. It came from eating sugar that was readily available in Virginia in contrast to in England. Whether they got it from honey, molasses, maple syrup, or from sugar cones shipped in from the West Indies, they enjoyed it in pies, hot drinks, and on their tasteless corn mush.
The only way for Charles to increase his income was to increase the output of his farm, particularly when the price of tobacco fell steadily. This required labor and since Charles obviously did well financially over the years it seems safe to conclude he not only had Indian slaves but probably also had indentured servants or rented African slaves from other planters. African slaves cost twice as much as Indian slaves in Virginia because they were believed to be better workers and hardier. The children and Hannah also worked in the fields and weaving.
It would seem that Charles might have waited until he became settled and was producing a profit on his plantation before he married. He would have built a frame house for his bride made with rough-hewn weatherboards on the outside. The roof was probably thatch but the chimney was brick. The bricks were made on the plantation. Built on the outside of the end wall, the chimney stood a foot or more away from the wall to prevent fire. The base was as wide as the house and the fireplace opened into the interior. The home probably was one large room with a floor of bricks set in sand. The small windows were shuttered and Charles may have later covered them with oiled paper. Glass was expensive and had to be imported from England. Early colonists rarely used it.
Furniture was probably an expense Charles put of until later when he built a true plantation house. In this one room home he would have had homemade furnishings, a plank table, with benches, a stool and a trunk for storing clothes and valuables. In the attic area there was a sleeping loft that at first may have been used by indentured servants and later by his children. Charles and Hannah rested in a bed near the fireplace that was a simple wood frame with rawhide straps to support a straw or cornhusk filled mattress.
As their family grew and they prospered Charles and Hannah would have built a typical plantation home of a story and one-half that was similar to the Warren house built in 1652. The house was one room deep and a central hall, containing a narrow steep staircase divided the home. Open at each end, the hall let in cooling breezes during the hot summers. Upstairs were two to four sleeping rooms with no heat and dormer windows for light and air. The home was probably wood and built by Charles, although he may have contracted to have a local carpenter build the home. The lumber could have been milled in Surry or Prince George County as mills existed in both counties at this time. Charles had carpenter tools and several saws, but he probably did not cut the lumber. He did, however, make the fireplace bricks, slowly adding to his inventory until he had enough to build two fireplaces in his new home.
An examination of the estate tells us that Hannah had five feather beds, six chairs, a table, another small table, two chests and a trunk. It would seem that they did not have a parlor for receiving guests, but entertained in the dining room. This was typical of the period. The other main floor room served as the parent’s bedroom, where Hannah had a poster bed with valance and curtains for privacy and warmth.
The older cottage where they had lived became the kitchen and work area for making cloth and clothing as well as doing any other indoor chores. The four spinning wheels and loom probably filled the entire room. Also this was probably where the Indians slept and lived. Scattered nearby the cottage and home were a few out buildings of rugged construction. A privy was near, as well as a workhouse for building casks and wheels. There may have also been a smithy area for repairing iron tools. Pens and shed for stock dotted the plantation but frequently stock roamed freely around the plantation and surrounding woods.
Family Tree Hannah and Charles Gee I
1. Elizabeth Gee: born about 1692; died 1749 married William Heath: born before 1680; died 1745
2. James Gee: born 1694; died 10/28/1759 married Boyce Scott: born about 1694-1710; died 6/6/1750
3. Charles Gee, II: born about 1696; died 8/1768 married Bridget Nevill: born about 1704-05; died 9/10/1748
4. Henry Gee: born about 1698/1700; died 2/18/1758 married Rachel
5. Robert Gee: born about 1698/1700 married Elizabeth
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