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Weston Wagons West - Ep. J1 - James Weston sailed for Maryland to seek his fortune

Updated on May 19, 2014
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore

1st Proprietor of Maryland Colony
1st Proprietor of Maryland Colony | Source

James in England

James was the third son of the English Weston family, noted for manufacture of wagons and raising and breeding horses that pulled them. James was trained as a farrier, but worked for a couple of years in the family business before making the decision to seek his fortune in the New World in the Maryland colony of Lord Baltimore. James realized that as a third son, he had no opportunity of advancement in the family business in England, but believed the American colonies offered at least a chance in that direction. As third son, James had been named for his father, and held a special place in the heart of the older man. James, the elder, appreciated the spirit his third son demonstrated and agreed to support the passage to America of both his son and and his party as a gift.

So, at age 24, in the spring of 1640, young James Weston boarded the ship, Ark II, bound for the Maryland colony. Since he had, under the law, paid his own passage, on arrival, he would be entitled to 100 acres of land. Also fully paid, making him eligible for 200 additional acres, as part of his party, were apprentice wheelwright Bruce Bourne and his wife, Jane, as indentured servants. The couple would serve James for seven years and then earn their freedom and 50 acres of their own. The adults were each required to take with them the supplies, tools, and provisions for their first year in the colony.

Each male passenger was allowed to take two horses. Since Bruce Bourne had no horses and James had several, James chose to take one stallion he had recently purchased and three brood mares from his herd. The rest of his herd he left with his sister and her husband, who were considering a trip to Maryland in the future, as well. Weston family tradition was that each son, on reaching the age of 14, and being in good stead with his father, was given 2 horses. They came as both an asset from the family and a large responsibility for the young man. Assuming he continued to meet all of his personal and family responsibilities, the son also received 2 additional horses when he turned 16. He was expected to care for, train, and breed the horses so as to build a herd for his adult life. James had been successful in that pursuit.

Passage across the Atlantic

The average passage time to America was about four months, depending largely on the weather, of course. James could have spent much of his travel time on the upper deck socializing, but his singular focus was on arriving in the colony with his horses intact. And, in spending time with his horses, he met and spent time with the others on the ship who were also transporting horses. He offered to use his farrier skills to care for the horses of others, when conditions allowed. While James had initially apprenticed as a blacksmith, as a youth, he soon realized that the relationship with horses was his true calling. Becoming a farrier, he maintained his blacksmithing skills, but added general care of horses including medicine and related techniques.

James had taken two years to become familiar with the family wagon business. Could that really have been five years ago now, he wondered. During that time, he realized that was not for him, but he used the time to learn as much about the business as possible. While there, he also met, and befriended the young Bruce Bourne. Their difference in social class should have kept them apart, but their adventurous individual personalities drew them together. It was from this interaction that the concept of going to America together took root and blossomed into reality. James had planned and plotted carefully to achieve this outcome. Now, he had the obligation to give all he had to make it work.

Bruce and Jane had wed with the new year, a few months earlier. Even with the conditions on the servant deck, they were enjoying spending this time together. Bruce and James had agreed that Bruce would use some of his time to meet as many different people around him as he and Jane comfortably could. They realized that, with still relatively few people in the colony, some of these folks, even in the servant class, in the future, would be neighbors, and some could become leaders. Knowing people and having positive relations with them, would be good for business, and, would be good for social relationships as the new colony grew, as well.

Life in Colonial America Times

At Historic St. Mary's City, Maryland

Reconstructed ship similar to Ark II
Reconstructed ship similar to Ark II | Source

Arrival at St. Mary's City

With no serious incidents at sea on this voyage, the Ark II sailed into Chesapeake Bay and headed for the St. Mary's River, off the Potomac, to make landfall at St. Mary's City. St. Mary's City was the first in the Maryland colony, settled in 1834, under the 2nd Lord Baltimore, Ceciius Calvert, 1st Proprietor of the Maryland colong. The Ark II was the fourth vessel to arrive in this season, so there was a lot of activity in this very small community as the ship unloaded its cargo. Local officials were available to assist newcomers who were entitled to land grants. It did not take long to realize that the acquaintances that both James and Bruce made would be very useful. There was much more bartering and haggling with local officials to obtain "desirable" properties than they had expected - even though they were sure there would be some barriers to cross. By joining with like-minded newcomers, each was able to more nearly able to obtain land grants that were "desirable" to them. Some wanted to live near each other, others wanted different things. Some swapping was negotiated in order to achieve the best result.

Another mild surprise for James was that shortly after arrival, there was an "auction" of sorts for a number of the indentured servants' contracts that had arrived on the ship with them. Relying on information Bruce had obtained during the voyage, James was able to purchase the contracts on two single young men that Bruce had identified who had wood working experience and seemed to be ambitious and reliable men. The contracts were for the work-life only, of each man, but not the land. This made the contracts affordable, in James' mind. He and Bruce felt that with these two men, Gerald Soth and Hiram Cox, to both help to work the land and begin setting up a modest woodworking and wagon works that they would have a combination that would be profitable.

The 300 acres of land that James was allocated were at about 6 miles distance to the north from St. Mary's City. During the first two weeks after their arrival, James managed to secure temporary housing and day-work contracts for Gerald and Hiram that nearly paid for the housing arrangements. James and Bruce were able to ride out to the home site and back one day, to determine what they had to work with. Two brothers, with their wives and four children among them, along with three servants, had been allocated the land immediately to the west of James's land. The two brothers, Mason and Peter Cole, rode to the site with them.

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Reconstructed house from 1640 era

At Historic St. Mary's City - a reconstructed house similar to those of the 1640 era.
At Historic St. Mary's City - a reconstructed house similar to those of the 1640 era. | Source

The Maryland homesite, at last

It was determined that by using the four horses as pack animals, about half of their tools and provisions could be taken to the homesite, with each of the adults walking. They stored the rest, to be taken on a second trip after they got set up at the homesite. A trail had been blazed through the forested wilderness, but there was not road, so a wagon was not practical, at this time, even if they were to obtain or build one. On the appointed day, when the weather appeared to be clear, the small party of James, Bruce, Jane, Gerald and Hiram with the four horses, took off early in the day and worked their way along the marked path that James and Bruce had taken earlier, to reach their new home early in the afternoon.

They immediately set about preparing shelter, locating areas for each anticipated activity, and taking care of the animals.

Historic St. Mary's City on video

Thank you for your continued support of this series

Hub readers are a faithful group and I want to thank you in advance for reading this series of stories. I will do my best to make them interesting, to make them plausible, and to make them as historically accurate as I am capable of doing. I look forward to receiving your feedback and meaningful comments on each story. I am using my real name on these stories and will reply to each comment, as I've noticed is common among the more prolific writers on this platform. As a retired university professor, I do have the time for this level of interaction and pledge that I will do so as long as I feel the comments are well intentioned - which I assume will be indefinitely. Thank you, again, for your support! ;-)


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