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Washington & Northern Virginia Company -- Biographies of Ancestors of Members
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Nicholas Martiau

Nicholas Martiau, a French Huguenot, had lived some period of time in England before being naturalized as an Englishman and sailing for Virginia. He had been born in France according to his own statement in the records of the General Court of Virginia and furthermore is believed to have been a protestant as the records of the French Huguenot congregation in London show him to have been a godfather at a baptism there in May 1615.

 

Martiau arrived in Virginia in 1620. The records of the Virginia Company show that by February 1620 the colony had requested that engineers be sent out who were capable of raising fortifications. The Earl of Huntington, who had an interest in lands in the colony, engaged at his own expense two engineers, one a captain from the low countries named Benjamin Blewitt and the other a reputedly

skilled French captain who had been long in England, Nicholas Martiau.
       Huntington specifically engaged them to act as his attorneys in establishing his lands in Virginia. To that end he saw that Martiau was naturalized, a necessary qualification to own land, vote, or hold office in the colony, and he also provided him with a life interest in some lands of the Huntington estate.

 
       Martiau arrived on the Francis Bona Ventura in August 1620. After the Indian massacre in March 1622 he commanded a company which sought out and fought the Indians. For a while after that he was at Falling Creek where the colony's iron works had been destroyed and the population devastated in the massacre. From there in 1623 he testified to the exemplary services of Doctor Ed Giften. In 1623 he was a member of the House of Burgesses that signed the completed draft of the First Laws made by the Assembly in Virginia. By the time of the census of 1624, Blewitt was no longer in the Virginia records and Capt Nicholas Martiau of Elizabeth City was the Earl's sole attorney in Virginia. In 1625 he appears in the muster as Captain Martiau, age 33.  

   In March 1623, the Commissioners sent from London to investigate conditions in Virginia questioned where the colony should be fortified, and received from the Assembly the answer that the best defense against Indians would be a 6 mile palisade from Martin's Hundred to Chiskiacke, the future site of Yorktown. In 1630 Governor Harvey and the council voted lands for those who would settle in the first two years in

Chiskiacke and upon completion of the palisade Martiau was among those who moved their families to Chiskiacke. In 1632 as a burgess from Chiskiacke and the Isle of Kent, he signed the petition to the crown for confirmation of the title to all of the colonists' lands. Martiau's plantation eventually included 1300 acres among which is the site of Yorktown today.
 

 

As a prominent public figure Martiau appears frequently in the records thereafter. He was elected burgess from Chiskiacke and the Isle of Kent in 1632 and was a justice of York County from 1633 until his death, often holding meetings of the court in his home. In the prelude to the famous "Thrusting out of Sir John Harvey", a challenge to autocratic rule, Nicholas Martiau was one of three speakers who by their opposition forced the governor to return to London to report to the king. At two other times occasions arose requiring Martiau to prove his loyalty to the crown: in 1627 he was required by the General Court to take the "Oath of Supremacy", and in 1656 it was recorded in Northampton County that "Captain Nicholas Martiau obtained his denizenation in England and could hold any office or employment in Virginia."

 

Little is known about Martiau's wife. In a letter dated December 1625 written in Elizabeth City and addressed to the Earl of Huntington Martiau announces himself as a husband and a father of "little ones". His wife, Jane, of unknown surname had apparently arrived on the Sea Flower in 1621, then been married to Lieutenant Bartley, and widowed by 1625. She in turn appears to have died before 1640. There is some supposition that there had been a first wife before Mrs. Bartley. 

There was a third marriage before November 1646 to a widow, Isabella Beech, who apparently died before Martiau died about 1657.
      Nicholas Martiau was survived by three daughters of his second marriage: Elizabeth married to Colonel George Read, Mary married to Colonel John Scasbrook, and Sarah married to Captain William Fuller, the Puritan Governor of Maryland under the Commonwealth.

 
      References:
1. "Nicholas Martiau: The Adventurous Huguenot, The Military Engineer and The Earliest
American Ancestor of George Washington", by John Baer Stoudt, Norristown, PA, 1932

Nov 04