Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Tongue o' Clishmaclaver

In 1947, Annie Keith Somerville wrote “the parentage of James Keith is still veiled in obscurity.” But her hand-drawn Family Tree of the Descendants of Rev. James Keith of Virginia provided a sketch of a Spanish coin, purportedly sent Keith by his cousin, a Scottish Earl. The medallion (below), with one face replaced by the Keith family coat of arms, is offered as James Keith's touchstone to an illustrious past.

Another historian had claimed, in 1911, that Keiths of Fauquier County, Virginia, “descended from an ancient and honorable Scotch Clan; they trace their descent from Lord Keith, Earl Marischal, of Scotland, and from Edward III, King of England.”
[See Colonial Families of the Southern States of America, by Stella Pickett Hardy; pg. 311.] Hardy places our subject, James Keith (1696-c1752), as son of Robert, grandson of Alexander Keith. Several cadet branches of the Earls Marischal do begin with an Alexander.

In 1889, Thomas Marshall Green offered a sage observation of James Keith’s ancestry: “The statement that he was descended from the particular family of Keiths who were ennobled as Earls Marischal and of Kintore may be true; but - if true at all - his relationship to those of his own generation who held those titles was so exceedingly remote that it is not now, by any human ingenuity, in any way traceable. Fortunately, to his descendants, the truth or falsity of the statement is as little important as it is to the world at large …” [See Historic Families of Kentucky, by Thomas Marshall Green; pg. 104.]

Most biographers agree that James Keith was born in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. "The town of Peterhead was erected by the Earl Marischal in a burgh of barony, with large priviledges and immunities, for the advantage of trade ..." reports a 1730 account. "It being an important station, as well for the protecting as advancing that valuable branch of trade, the fisherrie." Peterhead had a window open to the world. With year-round harvests of herring, cod and salmon, "cargoes of fish may be had fitt for the consumpt of any port in Europe." [See Collections for a History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, Vol. 1, by Joseph Robertson; pg 419.]

Tradition has it that James spent his youth at
Inverugie Castle (right), some two miles from Peterhead, on the northeast coast of Scotland. Family ties, perhaps in conjunction with the loss of his mother or parents, were sufficient to gain James a place in an Earl's household.

"Innerugie [sic], at the mouth of the Ugie, a famous castle of the Earls Marischal presents itself," described a geographer in 1907. "This barony, with many estates ... passed by right of marriage to the ancient and noble house of the Keiths" who "derive their origin from the Picts ... driven many centuries ago from their ancestral seats ..." [See Geographical Collections Relating to Scotland Made by Walter MacFarlane, Volume 52; pg. 279.] A family history declared the following legend 'possibly fable:' "The Keiths of Scotland claim descent from the German tribe of Chattie or Catti, who defied the Senate, foiled the second Caesar and, disdaining to submit to the overpowering force of Germanicus, escaped first to Holland, and, later, by chance and tempest, were driven to Scotland." [See The Keiths, in the Register of Kentucky State Historical Society, Vol. 1, No. 3, by Annie H. Miles; pp. 71-72.]

MacFarlane's sources tell us that, at the time of James Keith's residency, "This house of Keith has, beyond all the rest, the largest properties in the whole of [Aberdeen-shire]; even in Mar and the Mearns it holds considerable estates ..." The Earl may have sailed his own vessels. He had manors at Newburgh, Fetteresso and a 'hotel' or private townhouse in Aberdeen and likely another in London.  More important to the following account, Scots Earls could still rely on 'Clan levies' to raise private armies at the dawn of the 18th century.

Clan Keith had left their coastal fortress of Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven (pictured at bottom of post), when William Keith (c1614-1671, Scotland's 7th Earl Marischal*) made Cheyne's fortified tower hospitable as Inverugie Castle, c1660. During the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell's forces had ruined Dunnottar, "the only place in Scotland where the royal flag still flew," by cannonading a small garrison at the culmination of an 8-month siege in 1652. [See Dunnottar Castle, David Ross, ed.]

Image of sword, scepter and crown of Scotland.
The Honours of Scotland
The senior member of Clan Keith had held the office of Marischal of Scotland since the 12th-century reign of Scots’ King Malcolm IV. In addition to safeguarding royal regalia (left), the Earls Marischal had been responsible for protecting the king's person whenever he attended Parliament. As such, these peers of the realm were firm royalists. The 7th Earl Marischal had been captured prior to the destruction of Dunnottar. For nearly ten years - until the Restoration - he was held captive in the Tower of London. Dunottar had been reduced, in part, because regalia necessary for crowning Scots kings had been secured there. On their own initiative, women - both noble and common - organized their secret removal. 'The Honours' also re-surfaced at the Restoration. 

James Keith was in his second year when Inverugie descended to the 9th Earl Marischal, another William Keith (c1665-1712). Wikipedia, citing Cokayne’s Complete Peerage of England, offers this observation of William, of the ‘flashy wit:’
“… all Courts endeavour to have him at their side for he gives himself liberty of talking when he is not pleased with the Government. He is a thorough Libertine, yet sets up mightily for Episcopy; a hard drinker; a thin body; a middle stature; ambitious of popularity.”
James was but a couple years younger than William's eldest son George Keith (c1693-1778, of the Spanish coin). James was nearly the same age as the second son, James Francis Edward Keith (1696-1758, named for James Francis Edward Stuart, whose titles then included England's Prince of Wales and Chevalier de St. George). Also in the household were William's daughters, Lady Mary (1695-1721) and Lady Anne, also born to wife Lady Mary Drummond, daughter of James, the 4th Earl of Perth. (Perth Amboy, New Jersey was named for her father. As William Penn's partner, the Earl had sponsored a 1684 expedition to settle his new lands there.)

From Ecclesiastical Chronicle for Scotland, Volume 2, by James Frederick Skinner Gordon; pg. 187.
Robert Keith (1681-1757)
For his Preceptor, William chose Robert Keith (1681-1757). As such, Robert (left) was responsible - from 1703 - for educating and acculturating the Earl's sons. Miles asserts James and Robert Keith shared William's ancestry, through Alexander, the fourth son of William Keith (c1543-c1527, the 3rd Earl Marischal). [See Miles, pg 72.] An eminent, 18th century historian does link Robert (without citation) to Alexander Keith, 3rd son of William, the 3rd Marischal, and Lady Elizabeth Gordon (grand-daughter of Scotland's King James I and his wife, Queen Jane Beaufort). [See A Genealogical History of the Dormant: Abeyant, Forfeited, and Extinct Peerages of the British Empire, by Sir John Bernard Burke; pg 303.]

I find claims that James Keith was educated with the Marischal's sons entirely plausible. If so, this young college graduate, Robert, may have been particularly sensitive to James' needs. Robert's own father had died when he was not yet two: he may have had an affinity for a cousin in like circumstances.

The Keith's tutor, William Meston, was known for his burlesque poetry. Meston "seems to have been a good scholar and a wit and pleasant companion: but he was too fond of the bottle," says a biographer.

William, the 9th Earl Marischal and seated at Inverugie, was by 1701 a member of Scotland's Privy Council. From a position of power he openly opposed union between Scotland and England. William's king was Scots. After the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 deposed Scotland's King James VII (in England, styled James II), Earls Marischal continued to support the house of Stuart, even though their court had gone into foreign exile. [See Jacobism note, below.]

Of William's generation of the house of Keith, one biographer observes: "Here we have the father [William Keith], an Episcopalian; his wife [Lady Mary], a Catholic; and their son [James], a Protestant; all of them desperate to have a Catholic Stuart King on the throne." [See Clan Keith, citing Nothing But My Sword, by Sam Coull; pg. 28.] To this we might add the observation that William's first-born George was a deist ... if not an outright non-believer ... despite Robert Keith's undoubtedly fervent religious instruction.

George shared his father's political beliefs from the outset. By 1707, a clandestine Jacobite agent was styling George as 'Chevalier Keith' in correspondence. It was a play on one of James Stuart's titles, the 'Chevalier de St. George.' [See The Jacobites and The Union, Charles Sanford Terry, ed; pg 260.] (George's cipher names would, in the future, include 'Charpentier,' and '9/m.')

William likely went to France, who - as with Pope Clement XI - acknowledged the Stuart succession. James VII and II's male heir, James Francis Edward Stuart (above), added 'Knight of the Thistle' to William's other titles ... in February 1708. For his overt militancy, William was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle later that year. James Keith would have been twelve years old when the head of his household was abducted.

The results, in terms of family stability, grew disastrous.

Robert Keith, responsible for inculcating William’s sons into their hereditary roles, entered the ministry in 1710. George Keith became the 10th Earl Marischal upon William's death in 1712. Robert is to have guided George's brother, James Francis Edward Keith – contemporary of James Keith – into the study of law at Marischal College (founded 1593 in Aberdeen, by George Keith, the 5th Earl Marischal). Cousin (now Rev.) Robert Keith likely arranged for our James to study divinity - as he had - at Marischal College. (Some speculate James' father was, or had been, professor there.) Tumultuous conflict would prevent either James from taking a degree.

From Anne, the reigning Queen of England, George Keith "received the command of a troop of horse." He was promptly made Captain of Her Majesty's Guards, in February 1714. Anne was dead by July. Despite signing her successor's (German-speaking Georg Ludwig, a prince in the house of Hanover) proclamation in August, the Earl Marischal was deprived of his royal command. "On his way back to Scotland, he met his brother James at York, [who was] hastening to London to apply for promotion in the army. They returned home together and, instigated by their mother, who was a Jacobite and a Roman Catholic, they at once engaged in the rebellion of 1715." [See The Scottish Nation, Volume 3, by William Anderson; pg 107.] Brother James, in his memoirs, seemed to be racing to London for another reason: he may have been called to join a coup d'etat. The Irish and very popular James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde - in his role as Captain General of the British army - contemplated seizing the Tower of London, and using regular troops to enthrone James Stuart following Anne's death. [See The King Over the Water, by Shield and Lang; pg 25; and A Fragment of a Memoir of Field-Marshal James Keith, by James Keith; pp. 4-5.]

In October 1714, Prince Georg and England's ruling Council declared a change in long-held protocol regarding coronation. Scotland's Earl Marischal, now also a peer of the English realm, would process 'on the left hand' of England's Earl Marshal ... one place removed from the sword of state. "It may be noticed, however, that the Earl Marischal of Scotland has never appeared in any ceremonial since the Union," reads a footnote. [See Sketch of the History of the High Constables of Edinburgh, by Sir James David Marwick; pg. 42.] The author observes that, by the time protocol had been established, it was too late to notify anyone in Scotland. The Earl Marischal may have been thinking of his own sword, when England crowned King George I a few days later.

Aligned with his cousin, the Earl of Mar, the Marischal sought to put the Scottish crown on the head of James Stuart. One would like to think James Keith was one of the Marischal's party in this account of 20 September 1715: George "accompanied by a number of noblemen, entered Aberdeen and proceeded to the Cross and there proclaimed the accession of James VIII to the throne of his ancestors. The depute-sheriff read the proclamation; at night the city was illuminated, and the bells of St. Nicholas Tower were rung in honour of the new king. On the succeeding day, Earl Marischal and his party were hospitably entertained by the members of the Incorporated Trades; and in the afternoon they accompanied him to his mansion of Inverugie." [See Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland, by John Mackintosh; pg 295.] While modern writers often provide the appellation 'Old Pretender,' George and his brother almost invariably style James Francis Edward Stuart as 'King,' henceforth in their correspondence.

Image of Market Cross, Aberdeen, Scotland

Whether provided by Rev. Robert Keith or another, it is apparent that the young scholars had also received training in arms and martial tactics. All three of their generation - George, James Francis Edward, and James Keith - participated in militant 'uprisings' in late 1715. Not yet twenty, James was wounded in the Battle of Sheriffmuir on 13 November, undoubtedly following the Marischal. (Alexander Chalmer's Biographical Dictionary has the more renown James Francis Edward Keith wounded "in this unhappy contest." [See Vol. 19, pg. 286.]) Under the Earl of Mar and commanding a pair of cavalry squads, George led an advance force of Scottish highlanders up the boggy ground of Stone Hill near Dunblane (also Dumblain). “At the breaking out of the Rebellion of 1715, with his relatives George and James Keith, under the banner of the Pretender, [James Keith] wielded a claymore at the battle of Sheriff-Muir, where he was wounded ...” [See A History of Kentucky and Kentuckians, by Johnson E. Polk; pg. 1380.] Ashby McGowan, in the August 1996 issue of Military History magazine, acknowledges the claymore sword in that encounter: "They liked pistols, but did most of their fighting with basket-hilted broadswords, dirks (daggers) and targs (shields)." [See Robert Burns note, below.]

Woodcut from The Lion in the North: a Personal View of Scotland's History, by John Prebble, 1981.
Peterhead, 1715
James Francis Edward Stuart, now the attainted Prince of Wales, arrived at Peterhead on 22 December 1715. Having been passed over to succeed his father as King of Scotland, England and Ireland, Stuart had inspired 'The Fifteen,' a general uprising from northern Scots' strongholds. Some say by the fluke of a storm, Stuart used the Keith’s Port Henry as a means of landing and departing. Contrary to the 18th-century image (left), James Francis Edward Keith recalled: "The King indeed arrived safely in the end of December 1715, after a great many dangers, but came in a very small fishing barck with only two servants, and without any of those things which we had so much depended on ..." [See Keith, pg. 24.]

Stuart would have relied on the regalia in the Marischal's responsibility, if he'd gone through with plans to be crowned at Scone. George and the would-be king moved for days among the Earl's various manors. When Stuart made his public procession into Dundee, the Earl Marischal rode at his left hand ... the Earl of Mar (James Francis Edward Keith styles him 'Duke') on his right.

The enterprise failed. Sherrifmuir had not been a decisive victory against the English government's forces. Scottish clans divided - and then sparred - among themselves. None claim the sickly Stuart was a charismatic leader. When the Catholic aspirant, expatriate since he was six months old, did not get popular support from sought-after subjects, Stuart retreated to French protection.

For leading troops against his lawful King, George and his family were stripped of their titles and also attainted for treason. As the young Earl Marischal slipped into French exile, the English crown seized his lands. "George Earl Marischal was forfeited by the Duke of Brunswick, and his estate reckoned at one thousand six hundred and seventy-six pounds sterling, yearly; partly in Aberdeen and partly in Kincardin shires; and consisting of ... cash, six hundred and twenty-two pounds; barley, one thousand and seventy-two bolls; oatmeal, one thousand six hundred and ninety-nine bolls ..." and 640 eggs accruing to more than a thousand fowl. [See Robertson, pp. 420-21.]

Rev. Robert Keith and other Edinburgh clergy were prosecuted for not praying for the Hanoverian King George I, in 1716. A Commission of the Judiciary fined him; Robert "was prohibited from ministry."

Lady Mary, George and James' mother, is credited [by Shield and Lang, pg. 131] with this reflection, after her sons were deprived of nearly all:

"A curse on dull and drawling Whig,
The whining, ranting, low deceiver,
Wi' heart sae black and look sae big,
And canting tongue o' clishmaclaver.
My father was a good lord's son,
My mother an earl's daughter,
And I'll be Lady Keith again,
That day our king comes o'er the water."

Like his cousins, James Keith embraced the Stuart cause. A trained Protestant, defending a Catholic aspirant to power, he risked death in the service of his cousin George, an 'avowed religious skeptic.' Green wrote that young James, “remained for several years among the highland fastnesses; but again proved his fidelity to the Stuarts, by aiding in the abortive attempt of Seaforth and Marischal to raise the highlands in 1719.” [See Green, pg. 104.]

James Francis Edward Kieth, also in exile, went from studying military tactics at the Paris Academy to join his brother in Spain, which also recognized Stuart as King of England. Spanish authorities entrusted the Marischal's brother with about 18,000 crowns for a "fiery cross mission," to equip two frigates and "raise the Jacobites in France." [See Shield and Lang, pg. 318.]

Image of Spanish coin, defaced by Keith Coat of Arms
Spanish coin defaced by Keith Coat of Arms
George helped lead an invasion force of perhaps 6,000 men, many Irish, in a fleet that included ten ships of war under the Spanish flag, in March 1719. A storm dissipated the ships and "only a small force effected a landing in the Western Highlands, [where] a few [Marquess of] Seaforth Highlanders joined them." Too weak for the Marischal's planned assault on Inverness, "the small army took up a position in the pass of Glenshiel, and attempted to make a stand. They were soon attacked by Government troops, driven from height to height, and defeated. Earl Marischal and other officers retired to the Western Isles, and after lying concealed for some time, he escaped to Spain." [See Mackintosh, pg. 296.] It was George Keith - the last Earl Marischal - who provided the Spanish coin (above, right) as a memento of his affection for his kinsman James Keith. Perhaps it was one of the 18,000 crowns.

William McClung Paxton, in his 1885 book, has James engaged in intrigue with his cousins. Together, they "fomented discontent." After being repulsed in 1719, the Marischal and his brother engaged in "secret correspondence with their friends." It was "conducted through their cousin James, and he, when discovered, took refuge in the Colony of Virginia." [See The Marshall Family, by William McClung Paxton; pg. 24.] Miles claims James Keith had been "compromised by the intrigues." [See Miles, pg 72.] One correspondent says he had a 'price on his head.' Amid the continental exodus of Clan Keith, James Keith may have also fled to France. [See The Keith Diaspora (below).]

© The Trustees of the British Museum
Bishop Edmund Gibson, 1728
German-born George II was crowned England's King in June 1727. James Keith is known to have been in Scotland - and ordained an Episcopal Deacon - in December 1728. The Right Reverend Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London (right), is to have given license for Keith to preach for the Anglican Church the following month. In March, Rev. James Keith obtained a King’s Bounty of £20 and secured passage to the New World. [See A list of Emigrant Ministers to America, 1690-1811, by Gerald Fothergill; pg. 38 & footnote 25 in Virginia Council Journals 1726-1753, in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography; pg. 327.]

Raised at most on the fringes and perhaps near the center of the sumptuous and courtly lifestyle an Earl could provide, Keith had also known the deprivations and lawlessness of war. "The great scarcity of good books in this country is a very considerable discouragement ... to the minister," observed one Virginia correspondent, prior to Keith's arrival. [See Historical Collections Relating to the American Colonial Church, by William Stevens Perry; pg 335.] Educated by wordsmiths among libraries in one of his native land’s two top-tier, post-medieval, 'civic universities,' Keith would have been one of the more learned among his colonial peers. He would have been nearly thirty-three years old as he took up a new start.

Rev. Keith’s first ministry was centered at Curle’s Church (also Four Mile, for a nearby tributary), located on Richard Randolph’s James River plantation in Henrico Parish. Sometimes spelled 'Curls,' and thought originally to describe the river's flow around Curle's Neck; the main, parish church stood (on the northern bank) about twenty miles downriver from a trading fort that would be laid out as Richmond, Virginia in 1737. Keith became responsible for ministry in 450 square-miles of sparsely inhabited wilderness.

By law, colonial Virginians were members of the Church of England. County courts had it in their power to prosecute and perhaps 'give the lash' those who failed to attend services. Buonomi and Eisenstadt indicate that while "Catholics and Protestant dissenters represented a significant element in Maryland;" before 1743, "Virginia was the most uniformly Anglican colony." This is to overlook Fort Germanna, where German Protestants, brought in to mine iron for Alexander Spotswood had - c1714 - formed the first German Reformed Church in America. James Keith had brought himself to an environment of decreased religious tolerance. Candidates for colonial office had to meet 'the test' ... which required an oath refuting belief in transubstantiation in the sacraments. "To profess Catholicism" in Henrico Parish, "was to court social and political oblivion." [See Fauquier County in the Revolution, by Thomas Triplett Russell and John Kenneth Gott; pg. 15.]

To Keith's advantage, Anglican priests were a relatively rare commodity in Virginia. Before being licensed, native-born colonials were required to "take holy orders" in the mother country. Aspiring, New World clerics had to then twice cross the Atlantic. Survival rates were surprisingly low among those attempting it.

Government and religion played mutually reinforcing roles in colonial life. Legislators in colonial Virginia made it the legal responsibility of ministers to "preach at least one sermon on Sundays, visit the sick, avoid social excesses, and catechize children and non-Christians." [See Virginians Reborn: Anglican Monopoly, Evangelical Dissent, and the Rise of the Baptists in the Late Eighteenth Century, by Jewel L. Spangler; pg 13.]

There were four hundred families in the district when - in 1724 - an unknown Henrico Parish pastor reported to London: "The masters do nothing for their servants [styled 'Infidels, bond or free' in the original; meaning 'slaves'], but let some of them now and then go to church. One or two hundred persons are at church [Good Friday and Christmas]. The families are so distant that it is difficult to have the children brought to catechism, and when they grow to any bigness they do not like to be publicly catechized. The teachers and parents do whatever is done in that way. There was no public school for youth. There were only about twenty communicants at a time, when the sacrament was administered." [See Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia, Vol. 1, by William Meade (1878); pg. 137.] The respondent described his Henrico Parish flock as "not so observant of Devout postures as could be wished." He begged for the means to fund a school and parochial library. Fearing the vestry are "generally too backward" to effect repairs on the parsonage, he may be indicating true power in church administration lay among vestrymen. [See Perry, pp. 304-05.]

John Rolfe developed a modified strain of tobacco that became the first commercially successful tobacco export for the Virginia colony.
Also in the parish, previously called Varina (for tobacco John Rolfe had introduced nearby, finally producing credible profit for the London-based Virginia Company that financed the Colony of Virginia), was 'falls Chapel,' at a cataract that proved the uppermost navigable part of the James River at the time. More substantial was 'Jefferson's Church' at Rock Hall. Future President Thomas Jefferson's grandfather (of the same name) had contracted to build the structure in 1723, six years before Keith preached there, as part of his rounds.

Keith's home would have been a parsonage, between Curle's Church and the falls. "Next to the Varina plantation was the glebe of the parish, consisting of between 195 and 200 acres, which at an early date had taken the place of the one at Rock Hall, on the southern side of the James." [See Annals of Henrico Parish, by Lewis William Burton; pg 13.] From these farmlands, set aside by colonial officials, Keith was to supplement his income and assure himself of fodder, sustenance and firewood. It is unclear whether Keith actually farmed; as it was also the custom for ministers to rent glebe lands - and any slaves also provided - to others.

“The oldest extant record book of the vestry of [Henrico] parish begins on October 28th 1730. When this book was begun, the principal church of the Parish was Curie's [sic] …” [See Goodwin’s article in Colonial Churches in the Original Colony of Virginia, pg. 52.] In a written record that coincides with his initial participation, the Rector styles himself ‘The Reverend Mr. James Keith.’ His annual compensation was 16,000 pounds of tobacco; a medium of exchange permissible even unto taxation. Since tobacco fluctuated in market prices, there were periods when such salaries were also depressed. A state-run church, Keith's work was financed by mandatory 'tithes,' a head tax on every male Virginian - and every female slave - over the age of sixteen, required regardless of a subject's religious inclination. In 1730, Henrico Parish assessed 1,680 'tithables' 25½ pounds of tobacco each. [See Burton, pp. 13 & Appendix 12.]

On Rev. Keith's ministerial staff were three lay readers, with salaries of 2,000 pounds of tobacco. "Many colonists only saw the rector of the parish once every three or four weeks," as they rotated through regional pulpits. Readers provided church services in the minister's absence. [See 'Church of England in Virginia, contributed by Edward L. Bond to the Encyclo-pedia of Virginia.] Turnover among Keith's readers may indicate a certain lack of cohesion.

The minister was responsible to twelve vestrymen, who generally held positions in civil government as well as their parish office. "They considered themselves, to use their own language, as 'masters of the parson,' agreeing with him only from year to year, with authority to turn him off from their service whenever they would." [See The History of the Church of England in the Colonies and Foreign Dependencies of the British Empire, Volume 3, by James Stuart Murray Anderson; pg. 123.]

Leading names of vestrymen recorded as present and dealing with Keith in these financial matters is Richard Randolph (1686-1748), then a member of Virginia's House of Burgesses, but not yet having succeeded his brother William as the colony's treasurer. About three years senior to Rev. Keith, Randolph was firmly a member of the 'upper echelons of the colony’s elite.' Upstream from Williamsburg, the seat of colonial power, Keith was fortunate in his assignment, unless one takes into account that even superior colonial service almost never led to advancement in the greater Anglican Church. "Vestrymen tended to belong to the economic and political leadership and might be understood to express the interests and views of the planting elite far more than the plain folk of the parish," admonishes one historian.
[See Spangler, pg 16.]

The position could be tenuous. Local vestrymen had dismissal authority and were not required to make any case of wrongdoing. Perry's Collections tell us vestry were known to summarily expel their ministers, and lower expenses by 16,000 pounds of tobacco. [See Perry, pp. 334-35.] "Vestries could use their ministers and lay-readers how they pleased, pay them what they listed and discard them whensoever they had a mind to it." In 1734, in nearby St. George's Parish, "Mr. Smith's preaching was so generally disliked," the vestry refused to receive him as their Minister." On one hand, the Bishop's deep respect for tradition bound ministers to strict, formal practices. Vagaries among vestries often led to 'irregular' practices. Among them, Ministers were asked "to alter the Liturgy ... at the the dictation of those among whom he officiated; to discard the use of the surplice; to sit during the celebration of the Holy Communion; to administer Baptism, and solemnize marriage in private houses, without any regard to the time of day, or the season of the year; and to bury the dead in gardens or orchards, within temporary enclosures ..." [See Anderson, pp. 123-24.]

Not only did Keith walk a tightrope with his vestry: his ties to community were subject to friction as well. Neighboring Curle's Church were the Henrico courthouse and jail. "Abuses that are frequently put upon [ministers] by sheriffs and other Collectors of the Parish Levies," created animosity between ministers - responsible for tax assessment and revenue collection - and those they served. It had previously been practice to station the Sheriff at the church door. Given that attendance was mandatory, it eased his task of serving warrants and apprehending those he sought.

Keith was a long way from home, and likely without any financial resiliency. To risk vestrymen "shutting the church doors against the Clergyman, and stopping his supplies at any moment," made his position precarious.

The rector's role was clerical ... in both ecclesiastic and secular senses. Vestry records delve deep into resolution of land boundaries, for example. Parishes compiled vital statistics for births, deaths and marriages. Assessment, accounting and preliminary enforcement of property rights and revenue collection were all roles required in church administration. In addition to 'reading prayers and preaching;' performing marriages, funerals and baptisms; the itinerant minister and vestrymen were responsible for adjudicating the needs of the feeble, foundlings, insolvents, idiots and bastard children. Vestry records indicate Keith was an able administrator, circulating through various pulpits and undoubtedly into the nearby courthouse.

Col. Thomas Randolph (1683-1729, of Tuckahoe Plantation, brother of Richard, above), having died two years earlier; his heir, young William Randolph (1713-1745) became a Henrico Parish Church Warden in October, 1731. In addition to parish administration, "Church wardens acted as censors for the church in reporting all swearing, sabbath-breaking, drunkenness and other 'abominable sins,' to the court held in December and April." [See Life of Commissary James Blair, by Daniel Esten Motley; pg. 16.]

It was a vigorous time for Henrico Parish: 2,200 pounds of tobacco were spent on a floor, and glass was installed in the 'Church Winder' at Curle's. A thousand pounds of tobacco were spent repairing the chapel. As the area grew increasingly settled, tithable units rose; individual tithes were assessed at 29 pounds of tobacco. At some point given the moniker 'Parson Keith,' the Scots immigrant faced pleasing prospects.

That is not to say James Keith had moved beyond all civil strife. In 1732, "some wicked and evil Disposed persons" burned Germanna Church to the ground. Spotsylvania countians complained this seat of administration was convenient to no one but former Colonial Governor Alexander Spotswood and his tenants. Parishioners then petitioned a courthouse and church be built "in their neighborhood." [See Holy Things and Profane: Anglican Parish Churches in Colonial Virginia, by Dell Upton; pg 14.] 

The roving parson engaged in deep, personal ministry as well. He no doubt offered solace to William Randolph’s sister, Mary Isham Randolph (c1718-c1772), who - traumatized when her family is to have slain her child and the slave overseer she’d eloped with in 1732 - had likely returned to Tuckahoe, in the part of Henrico that became Goochland County in 1728.  [See earlier post Young Fellows upon Wrong Pursuits.] One account painted Mary as "scorned and derided for her mesalliance." [Italics in the original, see Virginia Council Journals 1726-1753, pg. 395.]

Parson Keith was more than twenty years older than the teen-aged widow. Church historian, Gail Raney Fleischaker, has Keith “romancing Mary Isham Randolph.” [Here.] One source alleges the pair were caught ‘in flagrante delicto.’ Despite his education and collateral lineage, Rev. Mr. Keith – very likely without land of his own – was deemed as poor a match for Mary as had been the overseer Enoch Arden. From the heights of hierarchical, Virginia society, the cleric was simply a 'clerk.' 

The Randolphs did not murder Keith, but they did apply their considerable stature to have the parson ejected from Virginia. Mary’s father was dead, but Fleischaker reports, “Two other Randolphs were active in the administration of Henrico Parish: Richard Randolph, Mary’s uncle was a vestryman, and William Randolph, her brother, was Church Warden.” Rev. Dr. James Blair, as his Commissary, was the Bishop of London’s man in Virginia. He reported to the Right Reverend Edmund Gibson (above) - who had ordained Rev. Keith - that the parson was “guilty of fornication with a young Gentlewoman.” Family and friends “did so dislike his character that they would not let her marry him,” wrote Blair. [See John Marshall: Definer of a Nation, by Jean Edward Smith; pg 24.] The Randolphs forced Keith's resignation, which he supplied on 12 October 1733. Brother of the injured party, it is William Randolph’s signature appearing beneath this curt entry in the church record:
"Ordered,
That the refignation of Mr. James Keith as Minister of this Parifh be received.
Ordered,
That the Church Wardens of this parifh in behalf of the Veftry do make a reprefentation hereof to the Governor." 
 [See Burton, Appendix, pg. 16.]
Keith “departed for Maryland immediately thereafter.” [See Smith, pg. 24.]

On 14 Jan 1734 Sir William Gooch, Royal Lieutenant Governor of Virginia (the actual Governor lived in England) and corresponding with Bishop Gibson, was describing mutual political favors. When he referenced a Maryland appointment, Gooch noted: “to which province Keith saw fit to retire with his guilt." [See The Fulham Papers, item 215-16.] As all ministers and missionaries from the Church of England had to be presented to the governor before assuming their position in a parish, it is likely Gooch knew of whom he spoke.

On 24 March 1734 Rev. Dr. Blair counters the governor's report in his own letter to the Bishop, saying Gooch had actually recommended Keith to Maryland's Governor. [See The Fulham Papers, item 231-14.] (Nearly two years later, Gooch wrote of a ministerial replacement, finally provided Henrico, "the parish Mr. Keith has left, a very good one, where, I make no doubt, his Conduct will make amends to the People for the failings of that unhappy Gentleman.") [See The Virginia Clergy, G. McLaren Brydon, ed., in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 32, No. 4; pp. 333-34.]

Image of Anglican minister, James Blair, from Encyclopedia of Virginia
Rev. James Blair (1656-1743)
Commissary Blair had been dealing with errant clergy since he pulled a minister's concubine from her pew soon after his arrival in Virginia. In 1724 he reported to the then newly-installed Bishop Gibson on a pair of ministers, "very scandalous for drunkenness & fighting & quarreling publicly, in their drink." "For want of clergymen we are obliged to bear with those we have," wrote Blair, before circumstances made Keith available. [See Perry, pp. 252-3.]

Perhaps to improve the quality of their ministry, or to take leadership from a minister forged with a colonial perspective, parishioners had recently (and clandestinely, according to Blair) sent a Virginia schoolmaster to take holy orders in England. He "took their money and has never returned." [See Perry, pp. 358.]

Scandals had been so prevalent, Virginia's House of Burgesses had legislated relief after receiving (likely Blair's) 'Proposition for supplying the country of Virginia with a sufficient number of much better Clergymen than have usually come into it.' The proponent cited "fornication, adultery, Blasphemy, ridiculing of the Holy Scriptures," in a category before "cursing, swearing, Drunkeness, [and] fighting," as "unbecoming the Gravity of a minister." Drunkenness being "most common," the author went to great lengths proposing proofs of such conduct, "such as sitting an hour or longer in the Company where they were a drinking strong drink and in the meantime drinking of healths or otherwise taking his cups as they came round like the rest of the company; striking, challenging, threatening to fight, or laying aside any of his Garments for that purpose; staggering, reeling, vomiting, incoherent, impertinent, obscene or rude talking." [See Perry, pg. 342.] For his role in the community, James Keith navigated a social environment bearing strict moral expectations. It's hard to fathom the depth of transgression Parson Keith had engaged in.

Blair is also aware that the Bishop has received an anonymous letter maintaining, “If you sent a dozen clergymen hither every man would have a parish.” Says Blair, “I believe he did not mean that there were there so many vacant parishes but, in disparagement of the present Clergy, he meant that if they had better men to substitute in their places they would turn out some that they have & take in others.” Blair tells the Bishop "there may be some truth in what [the writer] objects to [amid] the Clergy; in the point of drinking, it is neither so general nor to such a degree as he represents it." [See Perry, pp. 357.] 

Blair openly equivocates as to the disgraced Rev. Keith: "I gave your Lordship an account of the misfortune which occasioned [Keith's resignation] tho' I did not then know what I have learned since … from some of the circumstances in his case …” As church administrator, the growing need for pastors plagues him. “We have now the most vacancies I have known in the Country,” he declares, after specifically noting Keith’s removal. [See Perry, pp. 357-8.] 

Says Smith: “The circumstances are not mentioned by Blair, but presumably pertained to the fact that James Keith and Mary Randolph were deeply in love.”

It is likely that the couple had legally married. One online database gives the wedding date as 1733; more commonly accepted is 2 March 1734. All are vague on citations, but generally indicate a Virginia license, and infer capitulation by the Randolphs. Birth dates for first-born son, James Keith (c1734-1824), are also vague, and generally approximate the wedding dates. [See Virginia Council Journals 1726-1753, pg. 395.]

A popular author has Mary Isham Randolph accompanying James Keith to Maryland. The excitable Paxton wrote of Mary: “It is charged that her marriage to Parson Keith was concealed from her brothers, and that she stole away to accompany her husband, when he returned to Scotland for orders.” [See Paxton, pg. 25.]

Keith may have sought the intervention of his cousin and mentor. The Right Reverend Robert Keith had by then been appointed Bishop of Caithness, Orkney and The Isles, and was soon to add the diocese of Fife. While it is feasible for James Keith to have twice again crossed the Atlantic, the known timeline makes it unlikely.

Rev. Dr. James Blair is portrayed as one of the few persons in Virginia who could have openly defied the Randolphs. The Bishop's Commissary had long held a secure position on the Governor’s Council; he’d been the principal founder of the College of William and Mary. “Blair was regarded as the éminence grise of Virginia politics,” declares Smith. A native Scot, he'd become a missionary after being deprived of his Edinburgh parish for taking the losing side in a split of the Episcopal state church, rejecting Roman Catholic influence. Blair had placed Keith in his own former pastorate of Henrico Parish, a plum position, rife with social opportunity. “Circumstances suggest that Keith may have been Blair’s protégé or that Blair at least had a special interest in his well-being.” [See Smith footnote, pg. 25.] Blair had graduated from the College of Edinburgh: Smith reports he had been a classmate of James Keith’s father. Paxton posits James’ father was, in fact, Bishop Robert Keith (who was - by 18 years - James Keith's senior).

Virginians had - only two years prior - gone to great lengths following another scandal with an Anglican cleric. After Blair had "taxed him with rumours of 'scandalous conversations' with a gentlewoman," a minister named Wright had gone to Maryland in 1732. Blair had "forewarned Commissary Henderson, so [Wright] went on to Pennsylvania, where he was exposed by Colonel Spotswood, who happened to be there." [See The Fulham Papers, item 178-9.]

Instead of hounding him, Blair rescinded Keith's exile to Maryland.

Parson Keith's new appointment was further removed from the center of civil society. Given that trade and intercourse largely followed navigable waterways, the distance between the Randolphs, on James River, and Keith's new assignment, along the northern Potomac, was more substantial than the eighty miles separating them. “Hamilton Parish contained in Prince William and [later] Fauquier [Counties] a … large area to be served by a church, situated on the Quantico …”

The date given in the following account is troubling. “It was at the church on the Quantico that Mr. Keith assumed his duties in 1733, and he preached there ...” [See The Journal of the 135th Annual Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia; pg. 76.] Either the date is a year premature, or Parson Keith - discharged in October - had been recalled from Maryland (if he ever went) by the end of the year.

Virginia's General Assembly had ordered - after 1 January 1730 - Overwharton Parish be divided. Land south of a line drawn from the head of the north branch of Chopawansick Creek, southwest to Hanover Parish, "shall thereafter be called, and known by the name of Hamilton." Freeholders and 'housekeepers' of the new parish met at the "church above Occoquan ferry" to elect vestrymen and hear their oaths of office. As seeming vindication of Blair's contention about the scarcity of available ministers, those in the new parish may have waited years for an inaugural appointment.  [See An Act for making a new parish, on the head of Overwharton Parish, in Stafford County, here.]

Overwharton Parish had centered on Potomac Church, which remained in their keeping. When the legislature ruled "Whereas, the inhabitants of the new parish have born a great part of the charge and expence of the building and repairing of the glebe of the parish of Overwharton, and other houses belonging thereto; and now, by the division thereof, must be at the charge of purchasing land for a glebe and building convenient houses on the same," Overwharton parishioners were ordered to raise 10,000 pounds of tobacco ... for Hamilton Parish vestrymen to use in providing their own glebe. [See Overwharton Parish Act, here.]

Map depicting expansion of civil authority in Virginia, 1731-1740
Virginia Counties 1731-1740
By the time of Keith's arrival, the legislature had 'erected' Prince William as a distinct Virginia county in nether, northwest environs. Their 1731 boundary description referenced headwaters of Chopawansick Creek, and indicated an area between the "Potomack river, and Deep run, on Rappahannock river." [See An Act for erecting a new County on the Heads of Stafford and King George Counties, here.]

The description of upland boundaries is vague and does not even refer to the natural boundaries of mountains just beyond. Given that, and that this legislation also accounted for re-distribution of expenses associated with the eradication of wolves, one gets a sense of the area's primitive environment.

Originally called 'Occoquan Church,' for it's location on the River of that name (from an Algonquian Doeg depiction of "the end of the water"), it was soon referred to as 'Pohick Church' because of its proximity to Pohick Creek. Organized in 1724, Pohick is referred to as "the Mother Church of Northern Virginia." Falls Church historians (in the town of that name) report: "Until 1734, this area was served by clergyman who lived near present-day Quantico, and the nearest church was Occoquan Church near Lorton." [Here.]

In 1732 the Assembly divided Hamilton Parish "by the river of Ockoquan and Bull Run (a branch thereof), and a course from there to the Indian Thoroughfare of the Blue Ridge of Mountains." Hamilton would retain lands south of this line; the new Truro Parish became responsible for the rest of Prince William County. [See here.] Diocesan historians describe settlement patterns: "In the 'back country' of what remained of Hamilton after its separation from Truro ... settlements had already covered the lands of the upper Rappahannock drainage and had passed beyond the Pignut Ridge, while the movement from the Potomac below the Pignut had followed the Occoquan and its tributaries to meet the earlier spread from the western waterway (perhaps the Rapidan River)." Truro Parish and its inaugural appointment had not been a long-lived partnership. After a year, vestrymen began agitating for a replacement. [See Episcopal Journal, pg. 77.]

Image of sunken grave marker, Dumfries, Virginia.
Extant Cemetery, site of Quantico Church.
By the time of the Keith's arrival in the spring of 1734, vestrymen had likely sited their new Hamilton Parish Church at Quantico. Graves at the site (left) on Quantico Creek, near The Town of Dumfries, date from 1667. An undated silver plate remains, an inscribed gift to the congregation. Quantico Creek presented a harbor and landing to the Potomac River. A customs-house and warehouse had been sited there in 1731: more and more water-powered mills were cropping up along this estuary among tidewaters. Settled by Scots, "It was for a while the centre of a considerable trade." [See Potomac Landings, by Paul Wilstach; pg. 143.] Shipping huge quantities of upland tobacco, Wikipedia reports Dumfries at some point became the second leading port in Colonial America. This augured well for Pastor Keith and his bride. Says Wilstach: "A parish which raised poor tobacco seldom got a good preacher. It was reported, "some parishes are long vacant upon Account of the Badness of the Tobacco."" [See Wilstach, pg. 245.]

Map depicting location of Pohick Church.
Occoquan (later) Pohick Church became part of Truro Parish in 1732.
When researching The History of Truro Parish in Virginia, Rev. Philip Slaughter discovered “James Keith, of Hamilton Parish ... also officiated in this Parish, when it was without a minister." On 23 Sep 1734 "an order was entered to pay the Rev. Mr. James Keith 10,544 pounds of tobacco for services rendered.” [See pg. 12.] George Washington's father, Augustine, was then a vestrymen. Apparently, Parson Keith was not in contention for permanent assignment among the powerful Mason, Lee and Fairfax families. The following week, vestrymen authorized a representative to approach Bishop Gibson in London for a "discreet and Godly minister." [See Truro Vestry Records, pg 8.] Keith was not shunned. He returned to baptize a child in 1736. [See Births from Truro Parish Vestry Book, in The William and Mary Quarterly, Second Series, Vol. 10, No. 2; pg. 190.]

Slaughter also informs us James Keith was on a 1744 list of voters in an election of the House of Burgesses. In order to qualify, Keith would have been a land-holder. "An elector could vote in every country in which he owned a freehold of 25 acres of improved land, or 100 acres if unimproved." [See Slaughter, pg. 128.]

Authorities again divided Hamilton Parish in 1744 or '45. "Mr. Keith was a worthy man," declares a modern author, "utterly frustrated by the immense size of his parish." "Partly as a result of his urgent pleas, Hamilton Parish was split." Strangely, it was often the case that parish realignment, approved by the legislature, predated lawmakers' subsequent creation of new counties. [See Russell and Gott, pp. 15-16.]

Quantico, and a chapel at the confluence of Broad and Cedar Runs (variously called Slaty and Slater's Run) were removed from Keith's responsibility and assigned to a new parish of Dettingen. At the division, Keith 'was retained' by Hamilton parishioners. This might be an indication of preference for the 48-year-old Parson ... or a known quantity, or simply that vestrymen did not want to wait for a new minister to be appointed. Freeholders were beginning to anticipate how the division of parish boundaries preceded new opportunities in the formation of new posts in local government. As new civil centers were erected, land values increased thereabouts.

"It was necessary also to provide a new parish church, as Quantico church was situated in Dettingen and had been taken over by that parish. The site selected was at Elk run about eight and a half miles south of the parsonage where an Overwharton chapel probably stood ..." [See Fauquier During the Proprietorship, by Harry Connelly Groome; pg. 138.]

In 1745, Parson Keith settled his family near what may have been a simple, frontier chapel. A wooden structure certainly existed by 1744 when a Prince William County Minute Book describes road repairs carried out in front of the Elk Run Chapel, which lay on the on the primitive Falmouth-Winchester Road.

That organization under Keith, his wardens and vestrymen was able, is evidenced by the expansion of their endeavor. “The Church served respectively as a governing and administrative body under British colonial rule, and the bustling village of the 1750s boasted a tavern, a blacksmith shop, an ordinary, and was a stopover point for travelers going north or west in the constant expansion into what later became Fauquier County,” say church historians. [Here.]

The diocesan journal relates, “Church wardens of Hamilton [Parish] purchased new glebe for that parish consisting of three parcels of land on Licking Run, being part of the original Germantown tract. The purchase was made in 1746 and the parsonage, when completed, was occupied by the Rev. Mr. Keith, whose services had been retained by Hamilton.” [See Episcopal Journal, pg. 78.]

Fleischaker disagrees. “Keith had purchased adjoining parcels of land south of Pignut Ridge in the summer of 1747, and he could well have moved his family there in anticipation of the old glebe’s sale before a new parsonage could be constructed. The new parsonage, 'about eight and a half miles' north of Elk Run Church, was not finished until the 1750s, and it is unlikely that the Keith family ever took residence there.” [Here.]

Map depicting Hamilton Parish responsibilities of Rev. James Keith.
Portion of Fry-Jefferson Map, charted 1750-1752. (1755 edition)
Preaching responsibilities may have increased. The parsonage, three miles from Germantown, is visible on the Fry and Jefferson map (left). It was "conveniently situated between the two churches of [Hamilton] parish, Elk Run ... and St Mary's, better known as the Turkey Run Church." The wood-framed structure, "... stood on the then Rappahannock-Dumfries road, about a mile and a quarter below the present site of Warrenton." [See Bulletin No. 1, Fauquier Historical Society, pg. 68.] Cartographer Peter Jefferson; son of Thomas, contractor for the Rock Creek Church (above); would have been familiar with the area.

Family researchers muse that these were pleasant times for the couple, and that their love had endured its rocky beginning. Alexander, James and Mary’s last of eight surviving children, was born following their 1747 relocation. Mary Isham (Randolph) Keith’s mother, Judith (Fleming) Randolph (1688-bef 1743) had provided for Mary in her will. Mary may have inherited something upon Fleming's death, but her mother had remarried a man only 8 years older than Mary. 

In the 1750s Parson Keith supervised the construction of a 'substantial,' brick church at Elk Run. "An examination of building materials of parish churches shows that framed buildings were most common throughout the colonial era, and that few brick buildings were built before the 18th century." [See Upton, pg 11.] Vestry in Pohick, Quantico, Broad Run and Falls Church also rebuilt - in brick - during this era. [See Groome, footnote pg. 185.] 

Image of the cruciform foundation to Elk Run Church.
Foundation, Elk Run Church
More, the form of the building, built in the shape of a Greek cross - sections thirty-four feet on each side and fifty-four feet at their full length - was architecturally distinguished for it's time and location. Keith and his vestrymen showed leadership, later emulated by Aquia Church. Says Upton: "The decision to build a church was a momentous one for any parish. It involved a commitment of supervisory time ... and parish money far beyond that demanded under ordinary circumstances." In the period of Elk Run's re-construction, Upton rules out a boom in economic cycles as instigation. Overwharton parishioners protested the cost of their proposed church to the House of Burgesses in 1745. We might assume Parson Keith and his vestry helped inspire parishioners to go to sufficient trouble and expense.

On 28 July 1752 a 'John Neavill, Junr.' (also seen as Neville) was given permission to bring a suit of trespass against 'James Keith, clerk.' A Price William County court record of 31 May 1753 declares "the suit abates the defendant being dead." [See Miscellaneous Prince William Minute Books, pp. 38 & 146.] James Keith would have been perhaps 56 years old at his death.

James Keith's will is missing. Probate records first appear 25 Jun 1753. They indicate some prosperity. Inventory records show Keith willed his land be divided evenly between three sons. Four lots - Roslin, Stony Wood, Soldiers Retreat and South Run, all beginning at the foot of Pignut Ridge - spanned more than 1100 acres. He was also holding Huntly, 543 acres on Battle Branch. Keith may have acquired slaves.

None of James and Mary's surviving children (between the ages of 4 and 18) had married by the time of their father's death. As executrix of her husband's will, Mary continued appearing in court as late as 1762. "Mary Isham lived into old age, residing in Leeds Parish under the guardianship of her son Thomas who, with his wife Judith, was then residing on a portion of the Pignut Ridge land inherited from his father," says Fleischaker. [Here.] Financial difficulties caught up with Mary in 1772. On 22 August the "widow and Relict of the late James Keith, Clerk" entered into a covenant with her son, Thomas Randolph Keith (c1736-1805). Thomas covered her debts of £150 and agreed "to support and maintain the said Mary Isham Keith in a decent and genteel Manner." In return, Mary signed over five slaves (including Beck, Finder and Amos), and any inheritance from her mother, due upon her step-father's death. [See Fauquier County Minute Book, Part 2; pg. 762.] Though her precise death date is unknown to me, Mary would be gone about twenty years before whatever property was to pass through Nicholas Davis/Davies could be inherited.

Family historians often relay that James and Mary Isham (Randolph) Keith were laid to rest beneath the chancel of Elk Run Church. Excavation, begun in 2009, revealed a cavity in that location ... but no remains. Ground-penetrating sensors did locate a few burial sites, but it may be the Keith's bodies were exhumed from the building after it fell into disrepair in the 19th century.**

There will be a final, disturbing chapter to Mary and James Keith’s saga.

==30==
Boldface indicates subject is thought to be the author's direct ancestor.
=========
Go here for a map of churches Rev. James Keith is known to have served.
=========
*There is some disagreement regarding the Keith succession as Earls Marischal. Some accounts, such as the seminal text A System of Heraldry by Alexander Nisbet (1722), record only nine Earls Marischal before the title was taken away. Other accounts, such as Burke's Peerage and The Scottish Peerage, record ten Earls. In accordance with the Countess of Kintore's The Keiths, this post follows the more inclusive list of ten Earls Marischal.
=========
**An Elk Run Church Site Preservation Fund has been established. A panel depicting the life of Rev. James Keith was installed in October 2013, in a mini-museum recently erected at the site.
=========
Elizabeth Keith (1745-1821) was the youngest daughter born to Rev. James and Mary Isham (Randolph) Keith. In 1776 she would marry Edward Ford, Sr. (1738-1814). Ford was the son of Thomas Ford and Jane Milstead, mentioned in my earlier post: Good Luck if it Hits.
On the Jacobites:
James Francis Edward Stuart, Prince of Wales (1688-1766), was born to the second marriage made by King James VII of Scotland, who ruled England as James II. King James, the final English monarch of Catholic faith, had been quickly deposed in the ‘Glorious Revolution of 1688.’ On his father’s death in 1701, the Stuart prince declared himself King and sought the English, Scottish and Irish thrones. By the 1701 Act of Settlement, an English parliament - insuring a Protestant succession - de-legitimized over fifty Roman Catholics who bore closer blood relationships to the existing monarchy: they assured James Stuart’s half-sister, Anne, would become Queen of England in 1702. Adherents to the Stuart’s cause - arguing parliamentary interference with monarchical succession was illegal – resulted in a political movement termed ‘Jacobitism.’ The term derives from Latin inferences regarding the name 'James.'

England's throne passed from the house of Stuart. An Hanoverian dynasty was initiated with the ascension of German-speaking King George I in 1714. James Stuart sought revolt. Attainted for treason in 1702, the ‘Pretender’ - or ‘King Over the Water,’ depending - grew militant. Some Highland chieftains viewed Jacobitism as a means of resisting hostile government intrusion into their territories. "The significance of their support for the Stuarts was that the Highlands was [sic] the only part of Britain which still maintained private armies, in the form of clan levies." [See Wikipedia.]
The Keith Diaspora:
Both Robert and James Francis Edward Keith authored books. Robert would – by 1743 – be appointed Most Reverend the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church (presiding Bishop of the entire Scottish sect). "Deeply versed in archaeology, numismatics and Scottish antiquities," Bishop Keith's pre-eminent, scholarly treatise was The History of the Affairs of the Church and State of Scotland, from the beginning of the Reformation in the Reign of King James V. to the Retreat of Queen Mary into England, anno 1568. The text was published in Edinburgh in 1734 ... near the time of Rev. James Keith's reinstatement as a parish minister. [See Wikipedia.]

James Francis Edward Keith worked his way through Spanish and Russian royal armies until Frederick the Great made him Prussia's Field Marshal in 1747. Marshal Keith was killed in battle in 1758. He wrote A Fragment of a Memoir, published post-mortem in 1843. Covering colorful events in his life up to 1734, I felt certain he would document his childhood relationship to James Keith, subject of this post. Instead, he opens his account with intrigues following the death of Queen Ann ... but not before beginning thus:
“Memoires are commonly so tedious in the beginning, by the recital of genealogies, trifling accidents which happen’d in the childhood, and relatione of minucies (hardly fit to be imparted to the most intimate friend), that it renders them not only uninstructive to the reader, but often loathsome to those who wish to employ their time in any usefull way.”
George Keith, the final Earl Marischal, went on to serve as Ambassador in a Stuart government in exile, and then as Frederick’s Ambassador. According to Lord Macaulay, George was “the only man Frederick the Great ever really loved.” His defense of the Stuart claim was forgiven by England's George II: the Earl had informed on the Spanish when they sided with France against England in 1759. George Keith once more visited Scotland, having been restored to his titles and some of his lands. Compensated £3,618, he bought Dunnottar and lands at auction for £31,320 in 1764. George died abroad, without legitimate heir.

Though he never published; George associated with the literati, and – like his father – wielded superior wit. A relationship with Voltaire lasted many years, and spanned George's posts in both France and Prussia. James Boswell and Jean-Jacques Rousseau sought his company in France c1765. Rousseau, in his Confessions, offers amusing examples of Keith’s eccentricities and observes: “When first I beheld this venerable man, my first feeling was to grieve over his sunken and wasted frame; but when I raised my eyes on his noble features, so full of fire, and so expressive of truth, I was struck with admiration.”

The brothers Keith transcended being stripped of their titles and all rights to their property. “Most exiled Jacobite gentlemen hoped for regular financial help from family or friends in Britain. The range of jobs which an exiled aristocrat could accept without demeaning himself in the eyes of contemporaries was very limited; encompassing, at a suitable level, the Church, diplomacy, and the profession of arms. When a great cycle of wars came to an end in 1714, active military commissions became difficult to obtain. Diplomacy was not an easy field to enter, and as the vast majority of Scottish Jacobites were Protestant Episcopalians, a career in the established Church in the Catholic monarchies was closed to them by definition. Some exiles did carve out distinguished careers for themselves. George Keith, Earl Marischal of Scotland, escaped to France after 'The Fifteen,' but then entered the service of Frederick the Great of Prussia. He rose to great heights in the Prussian diplomatic service, acting as Ambassador Extraordinary to the courts of both France and Spain. Decorated with the Order of the Black Eagle, he ended his career as Governor of the Prussian enclave of Neuchâtel. His younger brother entered the Prussian army, rose to be a Field Marshal, and met a hero's death at the Battle of Hochkirchen in 1758. The Keith brothers were exceptional." [From The Jacobite Diaspora 1688-1746: From Despair to Integration, by Bruce Lenman.]

Though the brothers were able to trade on Masonic connections, Marshal Keith is remarkable for his refusal to shift his religious affiliation in the pursuit of higher office. After eight years in Spain’s Royal Army, in 1727 he solicited the king for authority to lead a regiment of his Irish soldiers. “… to which I received the answer I expected: that His Majesty assured me that how soon he knew I was Roman Catholick, I shou’d not only have what I asked, but that he would take care of my fortune.” In his memoirs, Keith continues: since he found being Episcopalian "an invincible obstacle to my continuing …” he offered his services (and amours) to the Empress of Russia.
Robert Burns on the noble Keiths:
Ramsay of Ochtertyre described the renowned Scots poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) thus: "That poor man's principles were abundantly motley, he being a Jacobite, an Arminian, and a Socinian. The first, he said, was owing to his grandfather having been plundered and driven out in the year 1715, when gardener to Earl Marischal at Inverury [sic] ..."

"My forefathers," says Burns in his autobiography, "rented land of the famous, noble Keiths of Marshal [sic], and had the honor to share their fate.' Of the name, Stuart, the poet wrote,
"My fathers that name have rever'd on a throne:
My fathers have fallen to right it."
"Though my fathers had not illustrious honors and vast properties to hazard in the contest,'" wrote Burns, "though they left their humble cottages only to add so many units more to the unnoted crowd that followed their leaders - yet what they could they did, and what they had they lost." [From The Life and Works of Robert Burns, Volume 1, by Robert Burns; pg. 23.] Even if Rev. James Keith was raised as a commoner, and had no intersection with the Earls Marischal, Burns lends an essence of what life investment Keith would have made, before migration from Scotland.

Not as popular today as Auld Lang Syne, The Battle of Sherramuir - lamenting the fighting in which James Keith was wounded - became one of Burns' more famous compositions. 
Montage images of Dunnottar Castle.
Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Young Fellows upon Wrong Pursuits

In her Family Tree of the Descendants of Rev. James Keith of Virginia, Annie Keith Somerville reported (1947) part of a wedding dress worn by Mary Isham Randolph “is still preserved and may be seen in the library at Maysville, Ky.[See pg. 7, HERE.] Mary likely wore this gown at her marriage to ‘Parson James.’ While family historians draw stature in descent from the noble Randolph family, accounts of an earlier marriage are so horrific as to be largely overlooked.

Image of Tuckahoe Marker, posted by Veronica Randolph Batterson.Mary Isham Randolph (c1718-1753) was born on her father’s Tuckahoe Plantation, the first large estate above the James River falls in Virginia. She was the eldest surviving daughter born to Col. Thomas Randolph (1683-1729) and wife Judith Fleming (c1689-1743). Mary’s first cousin Jane - three years younger - was born to Thomas’ brother Isham Randolph, Master of nearby Dungeness. Jane would marry Peter Jefferson in 1739. One of Thomas Jefferson’s earliest memories was being placed by slaves in a saddle … as his parents moved to Tuckahoe, so that the future President’s father Peter could fulfill his role as guardian for Mary’s nephew and nieces. Both Mary’s brother William, who had inherited Tuckahoe, and his wife Maria Judith Page were dead by 1742.

Long after her marriage to Rev. James Keith (1696-1754), Mary Isham Randoph would become grandmother to John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. It is my 5th great-grandmother Mary who ties me to the illustrious Randolph family: her grandparents are sometimes styled the ‘Adam and Eve of Virginia.’

William McClung Paxton made reference to a diary kept by Col. William Byrd when revealing ‘The Legend of the Randolphs’ in his 1885 book, The Marshall Family. [See pg. 25, HERE.] Byrd had employed ‘Tom’ Randolph as an estate manager as the young man prepared to build Tuckahoe. The Westover Manuscripts (published 1841) include Byrd’s journal entry for 20 September 1732. Byrd has “pursued my journey to Mr. Randolph's, at Tuckahoe, without meeting with any adventure by the way. Here I found Mrs. Fleming*, who was packing up her baggage with design to follow her husband the next day, who was gone to a new settlement in Goochland.”

“Here I learnt all the tragical Story of her Daughter's humble Marriage with her Uncle's Overseer. Besides the meanness of this mortal's Aspect, the Man has not one visible Qualification, except Impudence, to recommend him to a Female's Inclinations. But there is sometimes such a Charm in that Hibernian Endowment, that frail Woman cant withstand it, tho' it stand alone without any other Recommendation. Had she run away with a Gentleman or a pretty Fellow, there might have been some excuse for her, tho' he were of inferior fortune: but to stoop to a dirty Plebeian, without any kind of merit, is the lowest Prostitution.

I found the Family justly enraged at it …”

[Punctuation as per Virginia Magazineof History and Biography (1924). See pp. 392-393.]

Mary’s father had, by most accounts, died three years earlier (in 1729): the ‘enraged family’ undoubtedly included Mary’s only brother, the above William, then perhaps twenty years old. “He is a pretty young man,” allowed Byrd, “but had the misfortune to become his own master too soon. This puts young fellows upon wrong pursuits, before they have sense to judge rightly for themselves. Though at the same time they have a strange conceit of their own sufficiency, when they grow near twenty years old, especially if they happen to have a small smattering of learning. It is then they fancy themselves wiser than all their tutors and governors, which makes them headstrong to all advice, and above all reproof and admonition.” 

Paxton described a subsequent tragedy of serious proportions. “The story is told that when Mary Isham Randolph was blooming into womanhood, she was induced by the bailiff upon the estate of Tuckahoe to elope with him.” It is unlikely Mary was more than a middle teenager.

Given the Randolph family’s pervasive presence in the highest ranks of the colony, it is difficult to imagine anyone would officiate at the couple’s secret marriage. Goochland County, in which Tuckahoe is located, was created in 1728: Mary’s father had become the presiding justice and the Lieutenant of the new county. [HERE.] It was terrible folly to abscond with the young daughter of Goochland’s former chief militia officer, particularly when her Uncle Isham would assume that role.

 “There was great excitement among the family and neighbors, and threats were freely made by the brothers,” announced Paxton. Mary had but one brother. However, besides her father Thomas and Uncle Isham, their parents - the august Col. William Randolph (1650-1711) and wife Mary Isham (1660-1735) - had five other sons who survived into 1732; they and William and Mary’s two daughters had all born sons that would have likely gone to great lengths to avenge family honor.

Albert J. Beveridge stirred the pot in his 1916 biography of John Marshall. [See pp. 18-19, HERE.] Citing Paxton, he observes of Mary Isham Randolph: “With this lady the tradition deals most unkindly and in highly colored pictures. An elopement, the deadly revenge of outraged brothers, a broken heart and resulting insanity ... such are some of the incidents with which this story clothes Marshall's maternal grandmother.” He names the interloper: Enoch Arden (c1710-1733).

Jean Edward Smith, in his 1998 John Marshall:Definer of a Nation, reported Mary’s Uncle Isham Randolph had employed Arden to oversee his slaves on his Dungeness Plantation.

Enoch and Mary eluded their pursuers for months. “The search for the fugitives for a time was fruitless. At length their retreat was discovered on Elk Island in James River,” declares Paxton.

By then Mary had borne a child.

Mary’s maternal grandfather, Charles Fleming (1659-1717) had begun buying thousands of acres on both sides of Elk Island in 1714. [See pp. 45-46, HERE.] Paxton, in his ‘Legend of the Randolphs’ says, “The angry brothers came upon them by night, murdered the bailiff and the child, and brought their sister home.” Michael Knox Beran, in a footnote to Jefferson's Demons gives motive: “Mad with rage at Arden’s presumption at marrying into the gentry, Mary’s kinsmen fell upon the young couple in their abode at Elk Island …” [See pg. 210.]

Beveridge says Mary suffered a broken heart. Paxton declares, “The deed of blood and cruelty so affected the wife and mother that she became deranged.”

In my next post, I’ll detail the ministrations of Parson Keith.

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Elizabeth Keith (1745-1821) was the youngest daughter born to Rev. James and Mary Isham (Randolph) Keith. In 1776 she would marry Edward Ford, Sr. (1738-1814). Ford was the son of Thomas Ford and Jane Milstead, mentioned in my post Good Luck if it Hits.

* Mr. Randolph and Mrs. Fleming in Byrd’s 1732 account:
Mary’s mother’s maiden name was Fleming. Judith Fleming’s mother, Susanah (Tarleton) Fleming (c1663-1717), having died, storytellers assume Byrd is referring to Judith (Fleming) Randolph (1689-bef 1843). Judith’s brother, Col. John Fleming (1697-1756), had married Mary Elizabeth Bolling (1711-1744) by 1732: his wife qualifies as Mrs. Fleming, but had just begun bearing children.

Many researchers give 1729-1730 as the date range for Thomas Randolph’s death. Judith would have been a widow in 1732, as she did not marry (second) Nicholas Davies until around Christmas Eve 1733.