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Washington & Northern Virginia Company -- Biographies of Ancestors of Members
William Claiborne

William Claiborne, second son of Thomas Clayborne and Sarah James of the parish of Crayford, County Kent in England, was baptized on 10 August 1600 and entered Pembroke College, Cambridge in May 1617 at age 16. In June 1621 he was chosen to be the Surveyor of the Virginia colony under special terms which included the granting of 200acres. Traveling with Sir Francis Wyatt in the George he reached the colony in October 1621.


Surviving the Indian massacre in 1622, by 1623 he was on the council and was laying out the area on Jamestown Island that became known as "New Towne". At the same time he had patented his own 200 acres downriver near Blount Point and the following year 150 more acres at Kecoughtan. Participating in one of the governor's raids to destroy Indian corn, he was wounded in the thigh during the battle.
Completing his three year stint as Surveyor in 1624, he moved to his Kecoughtan land, and in August
1624 as Virginia became a royal colony he was continued as a member of the council.

         Diligent, he was also always careful to insure he received all to which he might be entitled, receiving from the council more land, in 1625 250 acres near Archers Hope and in May 1626 500 acres on the Blount Point river. In 1625 he was named Secretary of State for Virginia at 25 years of age. This gave him access to more opportunities and in September 1626 the council awarded Claiborne for three years the sole use of the only Indian who had volunteered to help the colonists.

       Claiborne now continued for three years exploratory trading voyages on the Chesapeake meriting the congratulations of the council. In 1629 he commanded a punitive expedition against the Pamunkey Indians for which effort he was reimbursed with 500 pounds of tobacco. In 1631 he established a trading post on Kent Island, and won sole authority to trade with the Susquehannocks.
When in 1629 Lord Baltimore appeared in the Chesapeake obviously looking for land, the council gave Claiborne the task of protecting Virginia's property rights. Successful in London in delaying the incursion, he built up his trading post on Kent Island. However, by 1633 Lord Baltimore had received a grant of Maryland, which included Claiborne's assets on Kent Island. Kent Island had previously been part of Virginia.

St Mary's City was founded in 1634 and Governor Calvert gave the word to Claiborne that he could only stay on Kent Island as a tenant of the proprietary and would need a license to trade. Strains now built in Virginia where the council opposed support for Maryland's settlers while Governor Harvey was eager to furnish assistance. A letter from the king instructed Maryland to allow the Kent Island post to trade and to enjoy the fruits of its labors. This led to a collision involving Maryland's seizing one of Claiborne's boats while then one of Claiborne's boats attacked two of Calvert's leading to four deaths.   
          Over four subsequent years, the turmoil continued. Claiborne's London partners betrayed him and petitioned Governor Harvey to seize all of Claiborne's assets, then receiving Governor Calvert's ruling that they controlled Kent Island.

 Finally in 1638 Calvert led an expedition that seized Kent Island from Claiborne supporters and resulted in hanging a number of them. About the same time a final ruling from the crown settled the dispute for the moment in Baltimore's favor. However, with Governor Harvey's final recall and the installation of Governor Wyatt in 1639, Claiborne recovered much of his Virginia estate and acquired more land, 700 acres near Kecoughtan and 3000 acres in the Northern Neck.
          In 1642 he was named by the king Virginia's Treasurer for life. After the 1644 Indian massacre of 400 colonists, when he had been named by the Assembly to be general and chief commander of the colony's forces, he laid waste to the lands and crops of the Chickahominies and then defeated the Pamunkey tribe in a three week campaign.


With the conclusion of the English Civil War, Claiborne in 1652 was one of four commissioners representing the Commonwealth when it peacefully took control of Virginia, and he was named Secretary of State, a position he continued to hold for one year after Charles II was restored. He subsequently traded with the Indians, and lived in the Northern Neck with many Kent Islanders. As land titles there became questionable he moved with many Kent Islanders to his lands on the Pamunkey river where he founded New Kent County and built his home at Romancoke.
           He appears once more in the record in March 1677 when he was praised for his loyalty after Bacon's Rebellion. The date of his death is not recorded. He and Elizabeth Boteler were married in 1635, and they had six children.


1. "Claiborne of Virginia", by John Frederick Dorman; Gateway Press, Baltimore, MD, 1995
     2. "Virginia Venturer", by Nathaniel C. Hale; The Dietz Press, Richmond, VA, 1951
     3 "The English Ancestry of William Claiborne", VA Magazine of History & Biography, 1948

 Nov 05