Sunday, September 13, 2015

Another early arrival

Tracing the Read family back to Virginia provides a connection to a famous early ancestor, George Washington's earliest emigrant ancestor. My 10th-great-grandfather Nicolas Martiau arrived in Jamestown in August 1620, a year after Thomas Key. Nicolas is also known as the "Father of Yorktown". There are likely to be tens of thousands of people today who are descended from Nicolas, so I know I am not alone in sharing a connection with him. After all, there is a Nicolas Martiau Descendant Association.
Nicolas Martiau. Source: Findagrave, photo by Daniel Estefano.

Nicolas was born on Ile de Ré, France in 1591. He later removed to England with the Huguenot community. He became educated in England, and associated with the Huntington family. From the notes of Jonathan Kennon Smith (see book Captain Nicolas Martiau on FamilySearch), Nicolas was affiliated with the Huguenot church located on Threadneedle Street in London. In 1615, he was a sponsor in the baptism of Richard Toche, son of Denis and Peretta Toche.

According to the Jamestown Society, in 1619 the Virginia Company was seeking engineers who could help raise fortifications in the colony. "The Earl of Huntington engaged at his own expense two engineers, one ...a reputably skilled French captain who had been long in England, Nicolas Martiau. Huntington specifically engaged them to act as his attorneys in establishing his lands in Virginia. To that end he saw that Martiau was naturalized, a necessary qualification to own land, vote or hold office in the colony, and he provided him with a life interest in some lands of the Huntington estate" (see Kennon Smith's research disputes the fact that Martiau was sent as a engineer to work on the defenses of the colony.

In August 1620, Nicolas arrived on the Francis Bona Ventura at Jamestown. He is credited with designing the fence defenses which protected the colony from Powhatan attacks in 1621/1622. The Wikipedia entry states that this action gained him the title "Master Engineer Fences", although again this is disputed. It is clear that Nicolas was a captain of a militia unit sent to Falling Creek, located on the James River. Captain Martiau is mentioned in a record dated 7 March 1623 as being at Falling Creek.

In 1623, Nicolas was elected to the House of Burgesses, representing Elizabeth City.
Source: Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia.
In 1624/25, Nicolas married Jane Berkeley, widow of Lt. Edward Berkeley. They had three daughters, Elizabeth, Mary and Sarah, and a son Nicolas. Martiau and family settled in Kiskyiake (which became Yorktown), and he was elected as burgess in 1631. Martiau patented large swaths of land in York County and became a prominent citizen in Yorktown. He kept the Earl of Huntington informed of his progress in the colony and sent regular letters back to England.

After the death of Jane, in 1646 Nicolas married Isabella, widow of Robert Felgate and George Beech.

The will of Nicolas Martiau was signed on 1 March 1656, and proven in court on 24 April 1657.

Nicolas Martiau and family are buried at Grace Episcopal Church in Yorktown, Virginia. Nicolas' daughter Elizabeth Martiau and husband George Read (my 9th-great-grandparents) are now buried in the plot next to the Martiau family. Their headstones were uncovered in 1936 during street regrading near the church, and these were moved into the cemetery. For more on Nicolas and his holdings in Yorktown, see
 I will have more on Nicolas, and his son-in-law George Read, in a subsequent post.

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