Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Tale of Adventuring in Chowan Country

Actual historical documents that detail the history of early settlers to the American colonies always fascinate me and the story told by one Thomas Osman in a deposition for a court case in Southold Town, Long Island in 1658 is particularly interesting. The Reeve families who settled in Long Island, New York are mentioned in the 1658 deposition that was transcribed as follows:

A copy of the transcription of the deposition was included in the Southold Town 1636-1939 Commemorative Book. The book noted that the original of the deposition was in the possession of a member of the local Long Island Historical Society. That individual died in 1944 and the location of the original deposition is unknown, if in fact it does still exist. In 1969 the 50 page Study of the 1658 and 1686 Depositions of Thomas Osman compiled by Wesley L. Baker was published chronicling the search by Baker and other individuals for the original document.

According to English emigration records, in 1635 a Thomas Reeve, age 24, sailed from London for St. Christopher, in the West Indies along with William Salmon, 25, and Thomas Terrill, 18.

Thomas Osman's deposition tells the story of his journey in 1636, along with a group which included James Reeve and his father-in-law William Purrier, from the "Summer Isles" in the Caribbean to the Chowan Country in what is now North Carolina for the purpose of distilling "spirits of resin" for the production of turpentine. After arriving in the Chowan country, they found that the area abounded with other parties of Englishmen with similar plans. One of the parties they met while there who had also come from the Summer Isles included a Thomas Reeve who has been described in some accounts as the brother of James Reeve. Because of the excessive competition in North Carolina they set sail up the coast to the Hashamomock Neck in Long Island, New York where one of the party already owned land.

Both Thomas Reeve and James Reeve lived on Long Island for the rest of their lives and raised their families there. Thomas appears to have died sometime around 1665 when he ceased to be listed in land records and a "widow Reeve" appeared. James Reeve died in 1698 leaving a will which was probated in Southold, Long Island.

Although the Study of the 1658 and 1686 Depositions of Thomas Osman did not conclude that Thomas and James Reeve were related based upon available evidence in 1969, recent DNA results for a descendant of James Reeve match several descendants of Thomas Reeve which establishes that they probably were brothers as previously believed.

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