Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NMDA Sponsors Yorktown Historical Dig

The board of directors of the Nicolas Martiau Descendant Association (NMDA) recently voted to fund a very special archaeological project that could have major significance to the descendants of the progenitor of their family association - Nicolas Martiau.

In 2003, the James River Institute for Archaeology, Inc., conducted a preliminary archaeological survey of Lots 110, 113, 114, and 115 in Yorktown, Virginia, that are owned by York County. These lots are located within the city of Yorktown between Buckner and Martiau Streets. The survey consisted of several hand excavated test pits and two machine-cut trenches. The survey discovered several potentially significant archaeological remains including British Redoubt No. 1, a dwelling and outbuildings from colonial Yorktown, evidence related to Nicolas Martiau's settlement, and intact layers dating from the Chiskiack Indian period through the 17th and 18th centuries.

As the article below indicates the NMDA funded the use of ground penetrating radar survey on the site recently in the hopes that artifacts of our early ancestor and his family may be found.

This is appear to be a first for any family lineage based organization, financially supporting an attempt to recover family artifacts that date back to nearly the first settlers of this country in the early 17th century in colonial Virginia/Jamestown/Yorktown.

So who is Nicolas Martiau and why is he so important in the history of this country?

You get a glimpse of him in an excerpt from the Daily Press, Newport News, VA., Thursday, September 27, 1973, Martiau: A Common Ancestor - Father of America's Fathers Studied

"First in peace, first in war, first in the hearts of his countrymen ... This accolade, describing George Washington - America's first president - surely must continue to strike a note of pride in his now ancestors.

"And there are quite a number, according to Robert Clay of Richmond. Clay is a descendant of Nicolas Martiau, first known forebear of Washington in this country. Clay, who is a staff member of the Virginia State Library in Richmond, says Martiau "is kin to half the people in the English-speaking world.

"John Baer Stoudt authored a book titled Nicolas Martiau - Adventurous Huguenot, in which he describes his subject as the earliest American ancestor of both General George Washington and Governor Thomas Nelson.

"There was a distinct French Huguenot strain in the lineage of Governor Washington," he says. "It came to him from his first American ancestor, Nicolas Martiau, a Huguenot refugee who came to Virginia in 1620. This resulted in Washington's blend of Cavalier and Huguenot, Stoudt observes.

"Stoudt further states that Martiau, who was the personal representative of Henry, Fifth Earl of Huntington, was naturalized in England before coming to Virginia. In this country, he served in the House of Burgesses, and was appointed a justice. He was a member of the Virginia Company. With the rapid growth of "adventure," Stoudt says, "and with the great increase in the value of the trade with the mother country, it became evident of the need for fortifications in the colony."

"Henry sent Martiau and another to Virginia at his own expense. Stoudt opines that the Earl apparently obtained for Martiau, the special form of naturalization granted only by proclamation. This gave him the right to acquire property and privilege to vote and hold office.

"Martiau was 33 years old, when he came to Virginia in the sailing ship, Francis Bona Ventura - one of 153 passengers. He selected places for palisades and fortifications at Yorktown; at Fort Story; and at Old Point Comfort, Fort Monroe, one of the oldest forts in America.

"In 1632, Martiau took his seat in the House of Burgesses as a representative from Yorktown and Isle of Kent.

"The Martiau Plantation comprised 1300 acres including the site of Yorktown. For his dwelling, he selected the high bluff on the curve of the York River as it widens to the Chesapeake Bay. This patent is in the Land Office at Richmond, and contains his family's name. His will is on file in the State Library. In his will, he provides for, and sets free his two Negro servants. This gesture antedated similar actions by George Washington a century and a half later. Washington was one of the first slave owners – if not the first to do so.

"The Courts of Virginia," Stoudt says, were "much like county courts of England. The first court at which Martiau sat was July 12, 1633. His last appearance was on Sept. 24, 1655. Occasionally, the court met at Martiau's home.

"Martiau's wife was the widow of an army lieutenant, according to Stoudt. Nothing is known of her arrival, or of her maiden name, he says. "It seems that the family name of the earliest maternal ancestor in Virginia of George Washington, must remain unknown," he continues.

"Jane Martiau died before 1640, and was buried most likely in the family burial plot not far from the big house, Stoudt says. Also buried there are Captain Nicolas Martiau Sr., and his son, Nicolas Martiau Jr., who never attained majority. Other children were Elizabeth, (married to Col George Reade. Mary) married to Col. John Scarsbrook, leader in Bacon's Rebellion, Sarah was married to Capt. William Fuller, Puritan Governor of Maryland.

"The gravestones of Elizabeth Martiau, and her husband, Colonel George Read, are in Yorktown's Grace Episcopal Church graveyard. The ledgers were discovered during excavations on Buckner Street, Yorktown. They were restored and preserved in 1931 by another Martiau descendant - Letitia Pate Evans. The colonial town's Read Street is named for Colonel Read, according to a native Yorktownian.

You can learn more about the Nicolas Martiau Descendants Association on their website at http://www.nicolasmartiau.org/.

Genealogist who can prove descend from Nicolas Martiau are eligible for membership in the Nicolas Martiau Descendant Association (NMDA). A six generation descendants chart in pdf format is available at the URL below and if you can prove a connection to anyone on that chart, you would be eligible for membership in the NMDA.

Nicolas Martiau Six Generation Descendants Chart

Your blog reporter serves as the National Registrar of the NMDA and I will be happy to assist anyone with their membership application into the Association. You can contact me at the email in the masthead above.