Overton #6106

English St George flag animationWilliam Overton (1638-1697)

Born in England.  Arrived in Virginia in about 1668 or 1669 and

English St George flag animationElizabeth (Mary) Waters (1654-1697)

Born in England.  Arrived in Viginia on 24 Nov 1670.

Overton #6106

Much of the information for this article is taken from  The Overtons: 700 Years. With Allied Families from England to Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas by Nan Overton West[1].  Another excellent source for ancestry research on the Overton line is the study by William L. Deyo, The Family and Ancestry of William Dabney (ca 1743-1779) of Virginia and His Two Wives, Jane Quarles and Anna Harris.  An analysis of the English connections of the families of Dabney, Harris, Overton, Waters, Peake, Herbert, Mallory, Quarles, Millett, and others (Colonial Beach, Virginia: DeJoux Publications) 2000.  Mr. Deyo, is the former President of the Virginia Genealogical Society and the Tribal Historian of the Patawomeck Indians of Virginia.

 

English Origins:
The accepted date of William Overton’s birth is 3 Dec 1638 in Yorkshire, England.  This could be the date of his baptism, so he may have been born a short time prior.  It is a reasonably well-accepted theory that William, my immigrant ancestor, was the son of Major General Robert Overton of London and Easington in Yorkshire, England, a prominent soldier, scholar, and officer under Oliver Cromwell.  However, since no record has been found of William’s birth or baptism, it is still not possible to positively verify his parentage with reference to primary source documents.  Unfortunately, the registers of Easington Parish of that period are no longer extant.  The only known records of William in England are found in Poulson’s History and Antiquities of the Signiory of Holderness, where the name, William Overton of Easington, is listed among Disclaimers from the College of Arms.  Also, The Visitation of Yorkshire states that William Overton was living alone and unmarried in 1666 and that he declined registering his arms and pedigree before Sir William Dugdale.  William was omitted from the will of his grandfather, John Overton, and was not mentioned in a deed of settlement executed by his father, nor in a manuscript which Robert wrote between 1664-71, while a political prisoner of the island of Jersey.  However, since William was living unmarried in Robert’s house at Easington in 1666 and declined to register his right to bear arms, it is reasonable to assume that he was Robert‘s son.
This portrait hangs in the home of Lady Claire Overton in London, England. Lady Claire is the widow of Sir Hugh Overton (1923-1991). It was painted about 1640 by William Dobson (1610-1646), the apprentice of William Peake, a relative of Elizabeth Waters, wife of the immigrant, William Overton.

This portrait hangs in the home of Lady Claire Overton in London, England. Lady Claire is the widow of Sir Hugh Overton (1923-1991). It was painted about 1640 by William Dobson (1610-1646), the apprentice of William Peake, a relative of Elizabeth Waters, wife of the immigrant, William Overton.

William’s purported father, Robert Overton was born at Easington Manor in Holderness, Yorkshire in about 1609.  He died sometime after 1678.  He is of royal ancestry[2] (10th great grandson of Edward III).  His father was John Overton (about 1585-1650), and his mother was Joane Snawsell (1586-1656).  He was the eldest of five children: Robert, Frances, Germaine, Griselle and Thomas.  His education was completed at Gray’s Inn where he was admitted on 1 Nov 1631.  Robert married Anne Gardiner (a Londoner, born about 1613) at the Church of St. Bartholomew the Less in Smithfield, London on 28 Jun 1632.  Anne was the daughter of Jeremy Gardiner of Stratford Bow, Middlesex, England.  Robert and Anne had twelve children: Samuel, John, Robert, William, Jeremie, Fairfax and Ebenezer and daughters: Alatheia, Dorcas, Elizabeth, Anne and Joanna.

Robert’s eldest son, John, married Constance (daughter of Sir Francis Monkton of Howden, Knight).  They had the following children: Constance, Jane, Marie and Ann.  John fell from grace when he left his wife and went on to marry Mary or Margaret Monckton, who was the daughter of Sir Francis and Margaret Monckton of Kent.  They went on to have several more children.  The Easington estate was passed to John when Robert was imprisoned for the second time, to stop it being sequestered by the crown. Two leases to John dated 1 Nov 1661 and 7 Nov 1661, put the estate in lease to John for 99 years, and for the ultimate benefit of Ebenzeer (Benjamin) and Fairfax, the only other two sons alive at that time.  That is why John is not mentioned in his father’s will.

The marble tablet in Easington Church to the memory of his parents, John and Joan Overton (photo courtesy of P. Crowther, 2007)

The marble tablet in Easington Church to the memory of his parents, John and Joan Overton (photo courtesy of P. Crowther, 2007)

In the The South Aisle of the All Saints Church in Easington, there is a chapel (“The Lady Chapel”), which contains a monument dated 1651 which was placed there by Robert Overton in memory of his parents, “the deceased but never to be divided John Overton and his wife Joan”[3].  The church is located near the place where Overton Hall, his ancestral home, stood until about 1887.  Overton Hall was continuously occupied by members of his family for many generations.  Robert is said to have been of the same family as the famous Bishop William Overton of Coventry and Litchfield, England, and it is possible that he named his son, William, born 3 Dec 1638, for this relative.

Major General Robert Overton was prominent soldier and scholar, who supported the Parliamentary cause during the English Civil War, and was imprisoned a number of times during the Protectorate and the English Restoration for his strong republican views.  As positions hardened during the period before the English Civil War, Robert Overton supported the Parliamentary cause.   At the outbreak of the First English Civil War, he tried to join the army of Lord Fairfax, but no official positions were available.  He was allowed to fight without any definite rank and distinguished himself in the defense of Hull and at the Battle of Marston Moor[4].

In August 1645, the governor of Pontefract, Sir Thomas Fairfax, appointed Overton deputy governor of Pontefract.  Shortly after this appointment Overton captured Sandal Castle. And he was acting governor during the siege.

In the summer of 1647 Overton gained a commission in the New Model Army and in July was given command of the late Colonel Herbert’s foot regiment.  During the political debates within the New Model Army he was a member of the Army Council and sat on the committee at the Putney Debates.

In March 1648, Fairfax appointed Overton as deputy governor of Kingston upon Hull.  There he became friends with the notable Puritan poet Andrew Marvell[5], but was a very unpopular with the townsfolk.  The townsfolk were known to by sympathetic to the Royalist cause and in June 1648 the town Mayor and some of the town council petitioned for his removal.

Sources differ as to Robert Overton’s actions during Second English Civil War.  Barbara Taft writes that he spent the war in Hull[6], while Nan Overton West writes that he fought with Oliver Cromwell in Wales and the North of England, that he took the Isle of Axolme and was with Cromwell when Charles I was taken to the Isle of Wight.

Robert supported the trial of the King in late 1648-49, but wrote that he only wanted him deposed and not executed.  As divisions within the New Model Army widened during the summer of 1649, fearing that these divisions would be used by their enemies, Robert Overton issued a letter that made it clear that he sided with the Rump Parliament and the Grandees against the Levellers.

Cromwell at Dunbar, painting by Andrew Carrick Gow (1848-1920), Tate Collection

Cromwell at Dunbar, painting by Andrew Carrick Gow (1848-1920), Tate Collection

When the Third Civil War broke out in 1650 Robert Overton accompanied Oliver Cromwell to Scotland and commanded a Foot Brigade at the Battle of Dunbar[7].  His regiment was also involved in the English Parliamentary victory at the Battle of Inverkeithing[8] (20 Jul 1651), where Overton commanded the reserve.

When then New Model Army returned to England in pursuit of the invading Royalist Scottish army, Overton remained in Scotland as governor of Edinburgh.  He helped complete the subjugation of Scotland and commanded an expedition to reduce the garrison forces in Orkney.  On 14 May 1652 a grateful Parliament voted Scottish lands to him with an annual income of £400.  In December 1652, when George Monck’s successor Richard Deane was recalled, Monck appointed Robert Overton as military commander over all the English forces in the Western Highlands with the rank of Major General.  He was also appointed governor of Aberdeen.

Oliver Cromwell statue at the Palace of Westminster, London

Oliver Cromwell statue at the Palace of Westminster, London

In 1653 Robert Overton returned to England because of his father’s death and succeeded to the family estate in Easington.  He also resumed duties as governor of Hull.  During 1650 he and his wife had become members of the “church”, and in retrospect he considered the execution of Charles I as a fulfillment of Old Testament scripture and often cited Ezekiel 21:26-27, concerning the humble and God’s “overturning” established order[9].

In general, his views seemed to have spanned several of the religious beliefs and political groupings of the day, and it is difficult to label Robert Overton as belonging to any one group.  He hailed Cromwell’s dissolution of the Rump Parliament in June 1653, but he subsequently became disenchanted and suspicious of Cromwell as Lord Protector.  Although his letters to Cromwell remained cordial, during the early years of the Protectorate he seems to have become more and more disenchanted with the Lord Protector and the speed of reform.  Cromwell informed him that he could keep his position in the army so long as he promised to relinquish his command when he could no longer support the policies of the Protectorate.

The Tower of London, seen from the River Thames, with a view of the water-gate called "Traitors' Gate" (2006)

The Tower of London, seen from the River Thames, with a view of the water-gate called “Traitors’ Gate” (2006)

In September 1654, Overton returned to his command in Scotland.  In December 1654, Overton was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London for his part in the “Overton Revolt”.  It was alleged that the following verse, in Overton’s handwriting, was found among his papers:

“A Protector! What’s that? Tis a stately thing / That confesseth itself the ape of a King; / A tragical Caesar acted by a crown, / Or a brass farthing stamped with a kind of crown; / A bauble that shines, a loud cry without wool, / Not Perillus nor Phalaris, but the bull; / The echo of Monarchy till it come, / The butt-end of a barrel in the shape of a drum; / A counterfeit piece that woodenly shows, / A golden effigies with a copper nose; / The fantastic shadow of a sovereign head, / The arms-royal reversed, and disloyal instead; / In fine, he is one we may Protector call, / From whom the King of Kings protect us all!”

He was accused of planning a military insurrection against the government and plotting to assassinate Monck.  It is not clear how involved he was in the plot, because he was good friends with Monck at the time and would have been unlikely to have been involved in a plot to kill him.  But whatever his real position he was considered to have been too lenient with his “disaffected officers” in sanctioning their meetings and there was evidence that he held meetings with John Wildman, an incorrigible Leveller plotter, who would use anyone in order to bring down the Protectorate.  Later while in the Tower of London, wrote to others informing them of Wildman’s plans.  A fellow prisoner in the Tower at that time wrote of Overton, “He was a great independent, civil and decent, a scholar, but a little pedantic.”

Elizabeth Castle is a castle and tourist attraction, on a tidal island within the parish of Saint Helier, Jersey. Construction was started in the 16th century when the power of cannon meant that the existing stronghold at Mont Orgueil was insufficient to defend the Island and the port of St. Helier was vulnerable to attack by ships armed with cannon. It is named after Elizabeth I who was the queen of England around the time the castle was built.

Elizabeth Castle is built on a tidal island within the parish of Saint Helier, Jersey. Construction was started in the 16th century when the power of cannon meant that the existing stronghold at Mont Orgueil was insufficient to defend the Island and the port of St. Helier was vulnerable to attack by ships armed with cannon. It is named after Elizabeth I who was the queen of England around the time the castle was built.

In 1655 Cromwell was convinced enough of his guilt to have him removed as governor of Hull and to confiscate the lands granted to him by Parliament in Scotland, handing them back to Earl of Leven (the owner before they were confiscated by Parliament).  Overton remained imprisoned in the Tower until in March 1658, when he was moved to Elizabeth Castle on the island of Jersey.  Barbara Taft mentions that “It is not unlikely that respect for Overton’s ability and fear of his appeal as an opposition leader played a major role in his imprisonment.”  On 3 Feb 1659, after Cromwell’s death and the re-installation of the Commonwealth, his sister (Griselle), his wife (Anne), her brother, and many Republicans presented his case to Parliament, along with letters from Overton’s close friend, the poet John Milton[10]

Portrait of John Milton (1608-74) in the National Portrait Gallery (circa 1629 by an unknown artist (detail)

Portrait of John Milton (1608-74) in the National Portrait Gallery (circa 1629 by an unknown artist (detail)

On 16 Mar 1659, Parliament ordered Robert Overton released from prison after hearing his case, pronouncing his imprisonment illegal.  Overton’s return was called “his greatest political triumph; a huge crowd, bearing laurel branches, acclaimed him and diverted his coach from its planned path.”  In June 1659 he was restored to his command and further compensated for his losses.  Charles II wrote him promising him forgiveness for past disloyalty and rewarded him for services in effecting the restoration.  Overton was appointed governor of Hull and again was unpopular, many referring to him as “Governor Overturn,” because of his association with the Fifth Monarchists who used the phrase liberally.  This perception was reinforced by the sermons of John Canne, a well known Fifth Monarchist preacher in Overton’s regiment at Hull.  On 12 Oct 1659 he was one of seven Commanders in whom Parliament vested the government of the army until January 1660.

By early 1660, Overton’s position started to diverge from that of Monck, as he did not support the return of Charles II, but he and his officers refused to aid Generals Lambert and Fleetwood.  He sought to mediate and published an exhortation to them to maintain the Lord’s cause, entitled “The Humble Healing Advice of R.O.”  His ambiguity of conduct and letters to troops in Yorkshire caused Monck much embarrassment, and as a result, Monck had Lord Thomas Fairfax order him to take any order Monck gave.  On 4 Mar 1660, a day after Lambert’s arrest, Monck ordered Overton to surrender his command to Fairfax and come to London.  Overton planned a stand, but he must have seen that defeat would have been inevitable.  Hull’s disaffection for him and some division among the garrison caused him to allow himself to be replaced by Thomas Fairfax’s son, Charles Fairfax.  The Garrison in Hull began the English Civil War as the first town to resist Charles I and was among the last to accept his son Charles II.  After 1642 no monarch would set foot in Hull for over 200 years.

Robert Overton was an independent and a republican.  He was regarded, perhaps falsely, as one of the Fifth Monarchists, and at the first rumor of insurrection was arrested and again sent to the Tower of London in December 1660, where Samuel Pepys went to see him and wrote in his diary that Overton had been found with a large quantity of arms, which Pepys recorded that Overton said he only bought to London to sell.

Chepstow is a Norman castle perched high above the banks of the river Wye in southeast Wales. Construction began at Chepstow in 1067, less than a year after William the Conqueror was crowned King of England. Is the oldest surviving stone castle in Britain.

Chepstow is a Norman castle perched high above the banks of the river Wye in southeast Wales. Construction began at Chepstow in 1067, less than a year after William the Conqueror was crowned King of England. Is the oldest surviving stone castle in Britain.

Robert Overton was briefly at liberty in the autumn of 1661.  However, realizing that he might be re-arrested at any moment he spent the time arranging his financial and personal affairs he issued a series of deeds to make provision for his mother, his wife and family and to avoid confiscation of his property by the Crown.  Most of his properties were sold to his family, to his sons Ebenezer and Fairfax and his daughter Joanna, and to close friends.  The last documents were executed on 7 Nov 1661 and on 9 Nov 1661, he was sent to Chepstow Castle.  He managed a short interval of freedom but was again arrested on 26 May 1663 on “suspicion of seditious practices and for refusing to sign the oaths or give security.”  As Andrew Marvell (the English metaphysical poet and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1659-78) wrote in a letter to John Milton, “Col. Overton [was] one of those steady Republicans whom Cromwell was unable to conciliate and was under the necessity of security.”

Mount Orgueil from the south – the castle is located overlooking the harbor of Gorey. The site had been fortified in the prehistoric period, but the construction of the castle was undertaken following the division of the Duchy of Normandy in 1204. The castle was first mentioned in 1212. (photo by Man Vyi, 2009)

Mount Orgueil from the south – the castle is located overlooking the harbor of Gorey. The site had been fortified in the prehistoric period, but the construction of the castle was undertaken following the division of the Duchy of Normandy in 1204. The castle was first mentioned in 1212. (photo by Man Vyi, 2009)

In 1664 the government sent him to Jersey, the second time he had been imprisoned there and this time it was to be for seven years.  During this time he was allowed out and about on the island, which was not uncommon for high-ranking political prisoners.  Overton spent the years of his incarceration in Mont Orgueil Castle on the island of Jersey trying to establish his freedom.  During his imprisonment, Robert Overton wrote a 370 page manuscript of letters, meditations and poetry to his beloved wife’s memory and about religious subjects.  He remained a prisoner on Jersey until early December 1671, when he was released to his brother-in-law by a warrant that was signed by Charles II.  According to some sources, he subsequently returned to England and lived his last years with or near his daughters and probably two sons in Rutland.  Overton’s will is dated 23 Jun 1678, aged 69, and Nan Overton West records that he was buried on 2 Jul 1678 in Seaton churchyard, overlooking the Welland Valley and Rockingham Castle.  Barbara Taft writes that he was buried in New Church Yard, Moorfields in London.  Other genealogical sources claim that Robert Overton died in exile sometime after December 1679 on Barbados, West Indies.  So far, no primary documents have been located which would resolve these inconsistent accounts.

The custom of the times was to send political prisoners to the Barbados or to Virginia, and there is a persistent family tradition that Robert’s son, William Overton, came to Virginia in search of his father about 1669, and failing to locate him, remained in Hanover County, Virginia, where in 1670 he brought over his fiancee, Elizabeth Waters, and they were married on board the ship 24 Nov 1670[11] in Yorktown (or Jamestown), it having cost him fifty pounds of tobacco for her passage from England to America.

Elizabeth Waters was born about 1650 in England.  She was the daughter of Samuel Waters and Ann Peake of St. Sepulchre’s Parish, London.  The last dates known for Elizabeth are 1690, the year her daughter Barbara was born, and 1697, the year her mother’s will was written; Elizabeth and William were both believed to be living at that time.  Ann Waters‘ will, dated 29 Sep 1697, reads:

I give unto my daughter, Elizabeth Overton, now in Virginia, the sum of ten shillings and to my son-in-law William Overton, her husband, ten shillings…

Ann died 27 Jun 1700, and her will was proved 4 Jul 1700.  Samuel Waters, husband of Ann, was buried from St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate, London, 6 Sep 1665.  He was the son of John Waters of Eastcott, Court of Northampton, Yeoman, who wrote his will 20 July 1626.  John named his wife Alice and several sons, including Samuel, not 21 years of age.

 

William Overton, immigrant to Virginia, and his wife, Elizabeth (Mary):

The story of William’s emigration to Virginia has been preserved as a family tradition passed down in several versions.  Many people believe that William‘s Protestant family in England and Elizabeth‘s Catholic parents objected to their marriage [Boddie, Historical Southern Families, Vol. V; Moreland, et al.].  It is true that St. Sepulchre’s Church, to which the Waters family belonged, was a Catholic church and that the Overtons were known to belong to the Church of England.  That same story is confirmed by a narrative written in 1887 by Thomas Shelton Watson, quoting Col. John Overton, a great-grandson of the immigrant William.  His is the earliest-known written account in America of William‘s history.  It further verifies the fact that William and Elizabeth (Mary) Waters were engaged in England, and that he left England because of the political turmoil surrounding his father.  Several other versions of William‘s emigration and marriage have been recounted, but none is as credible as Watson’s.

Some writers have referred to a tradition that William came to Virginia about 1668 or 1669, perhaps seeking his father, a political prisoner, [Boddie and Moreland] and that his fiancee, Elizabeth Waters, followed him to America in 1670 aboard a ship captained by her maid’s son.  One version said that there were political differences between the families: the Waters were Royalists and the Overtons “Roundheads,” (supporters of Cromwell).  When Royalists nearly caught William, Elizabeth‘s nurse hid him and persuaded her nephew, a ship’s captain, to bring him secretly to Virginia [Stacy].  On the next trip, he brought Elizabeth and her nurse [Tyler’s Historical Magazine, 19:141].

Another story said that when his father was taken to prison, William escaped and made his way to America [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5 Sep 1915].  Still another similar version of the tradition is that Elizabeth was dissatisfied with the husband her mother had chosen for her and fled to America, disguised as her maid, to marry William Overton [Ownby].  And Douglass wondered if, instead, Elizabeth may have been one of the maidens who consented to come to the New World to marry lonely colonists who would pay for their brides’ passage.  This supposition has been clearly negated by the account of Thomas Shelton Watson.

“To Have and to Hold” by Mary Johnson, a best-selling novel in 1900

“To Have and to Hold” by Mary Johnson, a best-selling novel in 1900

It is said that the novel, To Have and To Hold[12], written by Mary Johnston and published in 1900, related the romantic story of Elizabeth (Mary) Waters and William Overton.  Johnston based her story on the tradition that Mary Waters fled England, disguised as her maid, to escape a marriage to a nobleman she despised.  The principal characters in the book were beset with many hardships after settling near Jamestown.  They struggled with Indians and pirates, as well as with hostile Englishmen who were attempting to return the bride to England.  Perhaps this book provides the best description available to us of the dreadful conditions faced by our earliest ancestors in colonial Virginia.

William Overton‘s first land patent, which named Elizabeth Overton as a headright, was dated 1681.  From several sources we have learned that William was granted headrights (50 acres of land for each person he brought to Virginia) for 92 persons including himself and Elizabeth Overton:

23rd April 1681, Henry Chicheley, Gov’r., to William Overton and Eben (Evan) Jones. Forty-six hundred acres lying in New Kent (now Hanover) on South side of Pomunkey River, on Falling Creek, etc. for transportation to the colony of 92 persons. Among the 92 names were William Overton and  Elizabeth  Overton[13]

And on 29 October 1690:

Francis Nicholson, Lt. Govr., granted to William Overton and John Lydall 837 acres lying in St. Peter’s Parish, next above a dividend of land granted Jonathan Norwood & Ambrose Clare[14]

Another view of the Cedar Hill burial ground

A view of the Cedar Hill burial ground

As rivers were the only means of transportation, the earliest Virginians built their homes close to the waterways.  William’s land in New Kent on the Pamunkey River, called Glen Cairn, was a valuable plantation which remained in the hands of his descendants for several generations.  One account [Barrett] says William settled on Falling Creek.  Today this land is part of the property of King’s Dominion, a theme park north of Richmond.  Remnants of a few gravestones in the “Cedar Hill” family burying ground still exist on the Park property[15] (however, not in an area accessible to the public).

One author, Virginia Davis, has stated that William was in the colony of Virginia prior to 1659, a date also mentioned by Mary Orr, but most references place his arrival at 1668 or 1669.  Pam Stone cites a patent in Land Patent Book 4, p. 268, recorded 29 Apr 1659, granting to George Brown the land located on the north side of the head branches of Ware Creek on William Gilliam and Mr. Overman, and southwest on a branch parting it from Robert Harris.  No other reference in the area to Overman verifies the supposition that this was Overton.  Still, it appears more likely that William arrived in Virginia only a year or two before Elizabeth arrived in 1670.

Douglass, in My Southern Families, stated that William had been married in England to Miss Cary.  Miss Elva Eveglazier, a genealogist who was researching the Overton family in 1935, also said (without documentation) that William married a Miss Cary, who died leaving a child.  However, no further authentication of this marriage has been seen.  Miss Eveglazier theorized that John Overton of Onslow County, North Carolina was perhaps the son of William Overton and his first wife, Miss Cary.  There were many other Overtons in North Carolina in the 1700s, evidently unrelated to our Virginia ancestors.  Eveglazier said that after William came to America, he sent tobacco (which was used as currency in Virginia) for the passage of his second wife, “Lady Mary Waters”.  In various records, the name of William’s wife has been reported as Mary, Mary Elizabeth, and Lady Mary Waters.  In her will, Ann Waters (her mother) called her daughter Elizabeth Overton, which must have been the correct name.  Tradition tells us that Elizabeth, disguised as her maid (or nurse), followed William Overton to America on a ship captained by the maid’s son.  Perhaps Mary was her maid’s name and Elizabeth was later called by that name.  Some people have assumed that William was married to two women named Waters, one named Mary, another named Elizabeth, but we believe this misconception arose from variations in records, attributing both names to the Elizabeth (Mary) Waters who married William at Yorktown (or Jamestown).

Another suggested marriage of William‘s was cited in a directory of Ancestor Lineages of Colonial Dames of XVII Century, published in 1983, which recorded that William was married (2nd) to “Mary (Claiborne) Rose”.  However, it appears that this is also erroneous and suspects an early confusion with the Mary (Claiborne) Rice[16], wife of Robert Harris, whose son married Temperance Overton.  Efforts to learn of other marriages for William have so far been unavailing.

We have found no record of William‘s death in Virginia, yet it surely occurred after 1697 when he sold land in New Kent County and was named in the will of Ann Waters of London, the mother of his wife, Elizabeth (Waters) Overton.

The earliest surviving register of the children of William and Elizabeth comes from a list written in “the Josephus Book.”  The names, perhaps copied from an earlier Bible, must have been inscribed on the flyleaf of a prized copy of Flavius Josephus’ History of the Jews.  David A. Avant, Jr., in Some Southern Families, quoted the following passage from the book written by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian (37 A.D. – 100 A.D.):

The family from which I am derived is not an ignoble one. I will accordingly set down my progenitors in order. Thus have I set down the genealogy of my family as I have found it described in the public records and so bid adieu to those who calumniate me...

The original “Josephus Book” was lost in a fire in 1888 at Courtland, the home of William Overton Winston [Harris, et al].  But fortunately, about 1821, two descendants made copies of “the Josephus list,” although each contained minor differences.  In one copy William‘s wife’s name is written as Mary [cited by Anderson, Early Descendants].  Whether Mary was Elizabeth‘s first name, a nickname, or was erroneously written by descendants when copying from “Josephus,” we may never know.  Edward Valentine’s papers quoted from copies of the “Josephus Book,” which listed four generations of the Overton-Winston family.  Trist Wood, a family researcher quoted by Anderson in Early Descendants, said, “The Josephus record has long been an enigma to genealogists.  It was not an original record, but probably copied from a mutilated Bible.”  Still, the Josephus list has been generally accepted as authentic.

The names of William Overton and (Mary) Elizabeth Waters‘ children have been compiled from “the Josephus Book,” and from Anderson, Early Descendants of William Overton and Elizabeth Waters; from Boddie, Historical Southern Families, Vol. V; and from “The Overton Family” by W. E. Dickinson in Richmond-Times Dispatch, 5 and 12 Sept 1915.  One account, published by Media Research Bureau before 1939, named nine children: “Mary, Barbara, James, John, William, Ann, Elizabeth, Temperance, and probably Samuel.”  However, most accounts contain only the six from Josephus (although gaps in the birthdates would allow for other children who did not survive).

William‘s life in America was spent in the county of New Kent, where all records have been destroyed by fires.  Part of his land later fell into Mathews and King William counties, and his offspring resided on land which became Hanover and Louisa counties.  Some descendants went to North Carolina, thence to Kentucky, and some remained in Kentucky for several generations before moving westward to Texas and other states.  Still another group migrated to Tennessee and Louisiana, where several became prominent in state affairs.

Temperance (Overton) Harris grave marker - Hers may be the earliest known grave site in Hanover County, Virginia.

Temperance (Overton) Harris grave marker – Hers may be the earliest known grave site in Hanover County, Virginia.

The record of the family of William Overton and Elizabeth (Mary) Waters, all born in New Kent County, Virginia is as follows (compiled from Anderson, Early Descendants; from “Overton of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana,” in Boddie’s Historical Southern Families, Vol. V; and from “The Overton Family” in Richmond-Times Dispatch 5 Sep 1915:

  • Elizabeth (the Anderson family records call her Mary), born 28 Jun 1673 may have married Robert Anderson.
  • William, born 6 or 14 Aug 1675 married Margaret (Peggy) Garland.  He died 18 Jun 1759.
  • Temperance Overton, born 2 Mar 1679.  In about 1695 she married William Harris.  She died 19 Feb 1710, according to her grave marker at “Cedar Hill” in Hanover County, Virginia.  William Harris was born in Virginia.  After Temperance died, he married (2nd) Mary Butler [Ellis].
  • Samuel, born 14 Aug 1686 married Miss Carr[17]; he died before 1725.
  • James, born 14 Aug 1688 and died 18 Jun 1749.  In 1706 he married Elizabeth Garland (widow Truhart); she was born in 1690 and died 19 Nov 1739 [Carr Bible].  Margaret and Elizabeth Garland were sisters.
  • Barbara, born 5 Feb 1690 married James or John Winston and died in 1766.

The lineage of William Harris (1669-1733) and Temperance Overton is discussed under the heading of William Harris (1596-1656) and Ellen Burrows (1599- ).

 


[1] Overton West, Nan. The Overtons: 700 Years. With Allied Families from England to Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas (Abilene, Texas:  H.V. Chapman & Sons) 1997 (Library of Congress Card #91-65569)

[2] Edward III King of England (1312 – 1377) 10th g-grandfather – John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster (1340 – 1399) – Joan Beaufort Countess of Westmorland (1379 – 1440) – Mary De Ferrers (1394 – 1458) – John Neville (1416 – 1482) – Joan Neville (1443 – 1486) – Agnes Gascoigne (1457 – 1504) – Jane Plumpton (1489 – ) – Anne Maleverer (1504 – 1560) – Brian Snawsell (1530 – 1558) – Robert Snawsell (1563 – 1647) – Joane Snawsell (1586 – 1656) – Robert Overton

[3] The inscription on the plaque reads as follows: THIS MONUMENT SPEAKS THE MEMORY OF THE DECEASED / BUT NEVER TO BE DIVIDED JOHN OVERTON ESQ AND JOAN / HIS WIFE WHO LIVED BELOVED AND DIED LAMENTED / THEIR SACRED DUST ONE GRAVE CONTAINS UNTIL THE TRUMP OF /  GLORY SHALL UNITE THEIR BODIES TO THEIR SOULS. /  PRETIO PRUDENTIA PRAESTAT / NE FAMAM PERIMAT MARMOR LONGAEVA VETUSTAS / VENTURIS MEMORA NOMINA GESTA VIRIS / NON OPUS HAEC ARTIS CONATU / INGERE TANTO / INCLYTA VIRTUTES SUNT MONUMENTA SIBI / NIL DECORAT LONGO CENSERE SANGUINE MENTES / SED QUAE NOBILITAT MENS GENEROSA VIROS / QUID MULTISS LECTOR VERAE VIRTUTIS IMAGO / CONDITUR HIC SINE QUA STEMMATA SPRETA IACENT. / BE INDEX MARBLE TO THEIR FAMES / RECORD THEIR VIRTUES WITH THEIR NAMES / WHICH ART NEEDS NOT TO REPRESENT / VIRTUE ITS OWN VIVE MONUMENT / BLOOD NOT MINDS BUT MINDS ADORN / THEIR BLODD WHO RE BETTER THAN GREAT BORN / IF SO KNOW READER IN ONE WORD / HERES MORE THAN MADAM OR MY LORD / ROBERTUS FILIUS MAERENS / SCRIPSIT ANNO 1651

[4] The Battle of Marston Moor was fought on 2 Jul 1644, during the First English Civil War of 1642–1646. The combined forces of the Scottish Covenanters under the Earl of Leven and the English Parliamentarians under Lord Fairfax and the Earl of Manchester defeated the Royalists commanded by Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the Marquess of Newcastle. During the summer of 1644, the Covenanters and Parliamentarians had been besieging York, which was defended by the Marquess of Newcastle. Prince Rupert had gathered an army which marched through the northwest of England to relieve the city, gathering fresh recruits on the way. The convergence of these forces made the ensuing battle the largest of the Civil Wars. On 1 Jul 1644 Rupert outmanoeuvred the Scots and Parliamentarians to relieve the city. The next day, he sought battle with them even though he was outnumbered. He was dissuaded from attacking immediately and during the day both sides gathered their full strength on Marston Moor, an expanse of wild meadow west of York. Towards evening, the Scots and Parliamentarians themselves launched a surprise attack. After a confused fight lasting two hours, Parliamentarian cavalry under Oliver Cromwell routed the Royalist cavalry from the field and annihilated the remaining Royalist infantry. After their defeat the Royalists effectively abandoned the north of England. They lost much of the manpower from the Northern Counties of England which were strongly Royalist in sympathy, and access to the continent of Europe through the ports on the North Sea coast. Although they partially retrieved their fortunes with victories later in the year in the south of England, the loss of the North was to prove a fatal handicap the next year, when they tried unsuccessfully to link up with the Scottish Royalists under Montrose.

[5] Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) was an English metaphysical poet and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1659-78. As a metaphysical poet, he is associated with John Donne and George Herbert. He was also a colleague and friend of John Milton. His poems include To His Coy Mistress, The Garden, An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland, The Mower’s Song and the country house poem Upon Appleton House.

[6] Taft, Barbara. “Overton, Robert (1608/9–1678/9)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

[7] One of my 8th great grandfathers, William Tosh, also has an interesting connection to the Battle of Dunbar.  More information is available under the heading of William Tosh (1635-1685).

Battle of Inverkeithing memorial cairn was erected on the 350th anniversary of the battle by the Clan MacLean Heritage Trust.

Battle of Inverkeithing memorial cairn was erected on the 350th anniversary of the battle by the Clan MacLean Heritage Trust.

[8] The Battle of Inverkeithing was a battle of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It was fought on 20 Jul 1651 between an English Parliamentarian army under John Lambert and a Scottish Covenanter army acting on behalf of Charles II, led by Sir John Brown of Fordell. Lambert’s force was a seaborne expedition landed at Fife to get around the main Scottish position at Stirling. The battle resulted in a decisive English victory that gave Oliver Cromwell’s forces control of the Firth of Forth and outflanked the defensive position of the main Scottish Army under David Leslie.

[9] Ezekiel 21:26-27 (KJV): “[26] Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. [27] I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.”

[10] John Milton (1608-74) was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell. He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost.  Overton and Milton probably became acquainted early on in St Giles in Cripplegate, where they moved and lived for a time. Milton considered Overton a scholar and celebrated him and his exploits in his “Defensio Secundo” by writing: “…bound to me these many years past in friendship of more than brotherly closeness and affection, both by the similarity of our tastes and the sweetness of your manners.” Milton also included Overton in his list of “twelve apostles of revolutionary integrity.”

[11] Virtually all accounts relate, without documentation, that William and Elizabeth were married at Yorktown. However, Col. John Bell of Nashville found a handwritten document in the Claybrook Collection at Tennessee State Library and Archives which stated that they were married at Jamestown. In this document, believed to have been written by John Claybrooke after the Civil War, the writer stated: “William Overton born in England Deer 3rd 1638, emigrated to Virginia about 1668 or 9 and married Elizabeth Waters of St. Sepulchres London, November 24th 1670, on board the ship on which she came over, at Jamestown, Va. The tradition is that she was a catholic, and he a protestant, and that both families were very much opposed to the marriage, in consequence of which they came to Virginia; William Overton first and Miss Waters following him”.

[12] To Have and to Hold (1900) is a novel by American author Mary Johnston. It was published by Houghton Mifflin and was the bestselling novel in the United States that year.  The book has been twice adapted to the screen. The first version was a silent film released in 1916 by Jesse L. Lasky’s Famous Players-Lasky company, was directed by George Melford and starred Wallace Reid and Mae Murray. The second version was released in 1922, also by Lasky, and starring Bert Lytell and Betty Compson. A third screen adaptation is in the works, scheduled for release in 2013.

[13] Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers; Vol. II, Patent Bk. 7.

[14] Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers; Vol. II, Patent Bk. 8.

[15] For much more on this, as well as photographs of the grave markers and the site, refer to the discussion of William Harris (1596-1656).

[16] Mary (Claiborne) Rice is discussed further under the headings of William Claiborne (1600-1677) and William Harris (1596-1656), both my 11th g-grandfather (also early immigrants to Virginia).

[17] Her connection to my 9th g-grandfather, Sir Thomas Carr (1655-1724), if there is one, has not been determined.

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15 comments

  • I have a question regarding Anne Pettus- nee’ Overton. I was wondering if she married the son of Col Thomas Pettus- the man who married Kaokee- daughter of Pocahontas? Interestingly, my grandparents are both descended through the Pettus line and the name Overton comes up on my grandmother’s side . It was hard to follow which, but in that cause would Anne Overton (Pettus) children be descendants of Pocahontas?

  • Karen McPherson

    I am just beginning the process of researching this line. According to the information I have, William Overton is my 8th GG through his daughter Elizabeth. The information compiled in this article is very interesting and I’m looking forward to finding out more about this fascinating family.

  • Sande Ricci

    He is my 10th g-grandfather on my paternal Grandfather Charles Gooden’s side. Very interesting!

  • Lori

    I am also descended from these Overton’s and this is some of the best information I’ve found to date. I was not aware of the William the Conqueror link. I certainly want to know more about them all, but this is my father’s father’s side of the family and no one still living knows anything. I’ve done the DNA thing which is how I found out I was part of this particular bloodline. It’s all very interesting.

  • Charles R. Patterson

    Tor,
    Please delete my Ph#. from your web site.
    Thanks

  • Charles R. Patterson

    Hi Tor,

    If you can send me your e-mail address I can send you file.

    Thanks, Charles

  • The most direct connection I know of between William the Conqueror and William Overton is the following: William I King of England “the Conqueror” (1027 – 1087), 19th g-grandfather – Henry I King of England (1068 – 1135) – Matilda of England Empress (1102 – 1167) – Henry II King of England (1133 – 1189) – John “Lackland” King of England (1166 – 1216) – Henry III King of England (1207 – 1272) – Edward I (Longshanks) King of England (1239 – 1307) – Edward II King of England (1284 – 1327) – Edward III King of England (1312 – 1377) – John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster (1340 – 1399) – Joan Beaufort Countess of Westmorland (1379 – 1440) – Mary De Ferrers (1394 – 1458) – John Neville (1416 – 1482) – Joan Neville (1443 – 1486) – Agnes Gascoigne (1457 – 1504) – Jane Plumpton (1489 – ) – Anne Maleverer (1504 – 1560) – Brian Snawsell (1530 – 1558) – Robert Snawsell (1563 – 1647) – Joane Snawsell (1586 – 1656) – Robert (Gen) Overton (1609 – 1678) – William Overton (1638-1697)

  • My wife is from Shakopee, Minnesota, and I lived in the Twin Cities for about 10 years when I was attending the U of M and afterwards.

  • If you have everything entered into a family tree software or on a site like ancestry.com or RootsWeb, you should be able to extract a GED file. Mine has almost 6,000 names and it’s about 2.5MB, which isn’t too big for most email servers. That way we could compare entries and see if our information agrees. To see the Hylbom family tree on RootsWeb, go to — > http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=PED&db=hyl9192&id=P12

    The same information is also available on Ancestry.com, which I use as my source of record, but viewing my tree there may require a subscription. To see the Hylbom family tree on Ancestry.com, go to — > http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/17145776/family.

    Ancestry.com is a little bit more up-to-date.

  • Charles R. Patterson

    PPS,
    I have traced our ancestry back to Rollo the 1st, Duke of Normandy & a powerful viking ruler, our 33rd g-grandfather. Born about 846. Died about 931.

  • Charles R. Patterson

    William Overton & Mary Elizabeth Overton (Waters), are my 9th g-grandparents thru my mother Jane Ellen Haeske (Patterson), who is still living & will be 92 on July 12, 2013. James Buchanan Overton b. Nov. 15, 1865. d. July 14, 1941, married Mary Eloner Overton (Bass), parents of my grand mother Evie Jane Overton (Patterson). I have traced my line of grand parents back to William de Overton, born 1280 in Brerton, Cheshire England. d. 1345 my 17th g-grandfather. I would like to converse & trade info.

    Yours,

    Charles Patterson

    • I would be interested to see what you have discovered. I have traced the Overton line back to Christopher Overton (1460-1547), who would be my 15th g-grandfather. However, I have ancestry for William Overton (born 1638) going all the way back to William I (“the Conqueror”), King of England. Take a look at my page on Royal Ancestors (http://wp.me/P2HCbU-QR). Lines #1, 3, 5, 12 & 13 all pass through William Overton. Of course when you go back that far, things become speculative since primary documents are often not available, although the lines are supported by long-standing tradition and secondary sources. The Overton lines are complicated. If you haven’t checked out the research of William L. Deyo, you might want to take a look. I don’t have it available in my family history library for download due to copyright concerns, but I have his book in hard copy.

      • Charles R. Patterson

        Hi Tor,

        I have William the Conqueror in my tree also, but never made the connection between William de Overton & King William the 1st, but I suspected that there might be a connection
        because de Overton is surely a French name and the time period suggested that my grandfather might have gone to England with William the 1st. Christopher Overton is also my 15th g-grandfather. Thank you very much for the reply, I will “try” to send you a link to my
        project as I am sure it is too large to e-mail.

        All the Best,

        Charles.

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