Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry continues her series on descendants of the Jamestown settlers, wrapping up her story of the French ancestor of George Washington. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.
Today I continue with my “Jamestown Descendants: Who’s Who” series, again focusing on the lineage of General George Washington – whose ancestors included English noblemen and one French Huguenot who came to Jamestown, Virginia.
To recap from my last story: Washington’s ancestor Captain Nicolas Marteau (note the spelling is generally accepted as Martiau), a military engineer and French Huguenot, came to Virginia in 1620.
Besides having an indomitable spirit, Martiau was the forerunner for expanding the Virginia frontier.
He also had a rebellious side and feuded with Sir John Harvey, the royal governor of Jamestowne Colony.
Harvey arrested Martiau for treason, but due to the governor’s unpopularity a band of Virginians revolted. They made Harvey their prisoner. (See: Jamestown Descendants: Who’s Who, Part 6)
The coup d’état on Harvey led by Washington’s French forefather was America’s first rebellion. Martiau was now a noted leader. Harvey was sent back to England and an acting governor was appointed.
Here is an account published in the Milwaukee Journal in 1929, written by Frank and Cortelle Hutchins, noted Virginia historians whose ancestors were part of the Virginia Company.
Their account reported that the king was not happy his royal governor was ousted:
“The king would not brook the high-handed action of Virginia. Harvey should go back “if but for a day!” Before long, the hated knight [Harvey] came sailing up the James to be governor again. He started at once to even up scores with councilors who had “thrust him out.” The other leaders did not fare so badly. Wonder if a bit of sentiment did not intervene to spare Justice Martiau.”
However, the return of Harvey had its perks and a blessing, for he brought with him a young lad named George Reade, the gr. gr. gr. grandfather of George Washington.
The Hutchins related the tale:
“It was this way. Prominent in the train of the returning Harvey was a certain young George Reade, now living in great style at the governor’s house. He was a man of distinguished family, a nephew of the king’s secretary of state [Sir Francis Windebank], and destined for high place in colonial affairs.”
Reade would become a burgess, a justice, and councilor. He won the affections of Martiau’s daughter Elizabeth, who was at the time about 14 years old. The couple tied the knot in 1641 and made their plantation home where historic Williamsburg now stands.
Their daughter, Mildred Reade, married Augustine Warner II. They are the gr. great grandparents of George Washington.
Now back to Captain Nicolas Martiau:
“As opportunity opened, Captain Martiau’s adventurous spirit went leaping far beyond the York [River], far into the wilderness of the Potomac. In 1654 and 1655 he patented 4,000 acres of land on the south side of that stream. Here again, in a way, his life seemed reaching out to that great one the far future held.
“By this time Virginia had divided herself, wild regions and all, into counties. Up there, vaguely defined along the Potomac, was Westmoreland County. And now Nicolas Martiau – a vast new world to choose from – chose lands in Westmoreland County, where, some far day, George Washington should be born!”
Also the lands where George Washington would lead another rebellion like his forefather’s, a century and a half later!
There is a Nicolas Martiau Descendant Association if any of you readers have the family line. See also The National Society of Washington Family Descendants, Inc.
Lineage of General George Washington:
- John Reade and Margaret Margery Maude de Beauchamp
- Andrew Reade and Alice Cooke
- Sir Robert Reade, Clerk of the Signet for Queen Elizabeth and King James, and Mildred Windebank, daughter of Sir Thomas Windebank and Francis Dymoke, niece to Sir Francis Windebank
- George Reade (Virginia 1637) and Elizabeth Martiau, descended from the Royal House of England starting with Henry III thru Edward I, King of England
- Mildred Reade and Augustine Warner II, son of Augustine Warner I and Mary Towneley
- Mildred Warner and Lawrence Washington, son of John Washington and Ann Pope
- Augustine Washington and Mary Ball, daughter of Joseph Matthaus Ball and Mary Montague (also Jamestown/Royal line William Ball I and House of Burgesses)
- George Washington married Martha Dandridge, daughter of John Dandridge Jr. and Francis Jones
Stay tuned for more Jamestown stories!
Note: An online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is not only a great way to learn about the lives of your ancestors – the old newspaper articles also help you understand American history and the times your ancestors lived in.
Note on the header image: portrait of Colonel George Washington, by Charles Willson Peale, 1772. Credit: Washington and Lee University; Wikimedia Commons.