Wednesday, June 13, 2007

History and Ancestors at Jamestown

The big anniversary weekend to wrap up an 18-month commemoration of our country’s 400 year anniversary just ended at Jamestown. But the celebrating is still going on this week. Beginning Monday and running through Saturday, are activities celebrating America’s Providential History.

Although I am not there, I celebrate with them, not only because of the celebration's importance to our Christian heritage, but because one of my ancestors played a big part in America's Providential History.

According to Vision Forum Ministries’ website, the celebration this week highlights--among other things-- the role Jamestown played in introducing the Christian common law to North America and its role in conducting America’s first Protestant Christian worship services and baptisms.

Doug Phillips, President of Vision Forum Ministries quoted these words found among the writings of Richard Hakluyt, one of Jamestown’s Founding Fathers: “Wee shall by plantinge there inlarge the glory of the gospel, and from England plante sincere religion, and provide a safe and a sure place to receave people from all partes of the worlds that are forced to flee for the truthe of Gods worde."

The first permanent settlers to Jamestown came to American shores in 1607 as the Virginia Company of London, a commercial venture under the Proprietary System. Under this system, the King granted companies or individuals commercial charters to establish colonies. But, although the group came as a commercial venture, many of them came, too, for the purpose of spreading the gospel. And among them was a minister of the (Anglican) Church of England.

According to the writings of Captain John Smith, the first place of worship in the New World was a hastily-constructed shelter with a ship’s sail stretched across tree branches for a top and rails for the sides. Worshippers sat on benches made from un-hewn tree trunks and prayed at an altar made of a tree trunk nailed between two trees.

I don’t know if any of my ancestors were among this first group of Jamestown worshippers, but Rev. Haute Wyatt, my great-grandfather+8 was one of the early ministers who helped bring the gospel to Jamestown and America.

Haute Wyatt was born in 1594 in Boxley, Kent County, England. He attended Queens College, Oxford, and was later ordained as a Priest in the Church of England. He came to Jamestown in 1621, just fourteen years after its settlement, and a year after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, with his brother Sir Francis Wyatt who had been appointed Governor of Virginia.

As a proprietary of England, the London Company appointed their own governors and other officials. Francis Wyatt was appointed Colonial Governor of Virginia under the proprietary system and Rev. Haute Wyatt was sent as spiritual leader. Records from a Court held in London July 16, 1621 reads in part:

"Sir Francis Wyatt's brother beinge a M[aste]r of Arts and a good divine and very willinge to goe wth him this present Voyadge, migant be entertayned and placed as Mynister over his people and have ye same allowance towards the furnishings of himself wth the necessaries as others have hadd, and that his wife might have her transporte freed, wch motion was thought verie reasonable..."

Rev. Haute Wyatt and Governor Francis Wyatt arrived at Jamestown in either October or November of 1621 on board the ship George.

Francis Wyatt served as Colonial Governor from 1621 until the crown took over government of the colony in 1624. At the request of the crown, he remained as Crown Governor until 1626. Then he served again as Crown Governor from 1639-1642.

Rev. Haute Wyatt served as chaplain for his brother, the governor, and as vicar, or minister, for the (Anglican) Church of England.

The Church in England had separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534. Prior to this time, there were already movements within the English church to do away with some of the ceremony and conform it to a more Biblical and New Testament model of the church. The separation came when the pope refused to annul the marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon, the first of his six wives. To ensure the annulment, Henry split with the Catholic Church and declared himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England. He still adhered to other Catholic beliefs, but the church gradually took on more Protestant beliefs. From this came the Anglican Church, then the Episcopal Church.

The settlers at Jamestown had built a fort soon after arriving in Virginia, then erected a church building inside the fort. However, this structure burned in January 1608 and they built another. In 1617 they erected a building on the site where the present church stands. The first Representative Legislative Assembly convened in this building in July 1619, and this would have been the church building in which Rev. Haute Wyatt served after he came to Virginia in 1621. Then, in 1639, it was replaced by a brick structure.

Francis Wyatt was replaced as Governor of Virginia at his own request, to return to England and take possession of the family’s estate, Boxley Hall. He had inherited the estate as first son after their father’s death. According to some accounts, he left no immediate descendants in America.

Rev. Haute Wyatt returned to England around 1624/25. He became vicar/rector of Boxley Parish, and held this position until his death in 1638. He was buried in the Chancel of Boxley Church.

A memorial erected in the church at Boxley in memory of several members of the Wyatt family, includes the following: “George Wiat left also Hawt Wiat who died vicar of this parish, and hath issue liveing in Virginia.”

Some of this “issue” were my ancestors, and at least one of their descendants made his way to Alabama and became my great, great-grandfather, William H. Wyatt.

Born in 1802, William H. Wyatt died in 1858 and is buried in an old graveyard in the county where I live, along with some of my other ancestors.

At least in part, it’s because of the Gospel and those early Jamestown settlers’ desire to bring it to the New World, that I am an American. For, if not for the Gospel, My great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather very likely would not have come to these shores.

I thank God for the Gospel, for those early Jamestown settlers who brought it to America, and for the fun of researching my family heritage.

(Much of this information came from several sources in history books and on the web. Some came from family records kept by my family members.)


marinermadness said...

Hello Shelba, my name is Chris Becker
and I'm also a Christian writer AND a descendant of Rev. Haute Wyatt (my 9th-great grandfather. Nice to see that there are others like me who not only honor the heritage of the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt (by being writers) but also of Rev. Haute Wyatt.

Leigh said...

I am Leigh Wiatt wife of James Streeter Wiatt and he is a descendant of Rev. Haute Wiatt. He too is a committed Christian and our family enjoys the godly heritage he bought to this country. We were able to attend the Jamestowne anniversary..

vicki said...

My name is Vicki Linzy, I have recently discovered that our family was descended from Rev.Wyatt.It is so exciting to discover our family history.Would love to hear from any other distant family members .You may e-mail me at
Blessings to all*