Bartholomew Stovall – The English Immigrant
The story of Bartholomew Stovall, the English immigrant cannot be told by simply suggesting that he took advantage of indenture opportunities and sailed to the new world of Americain 1684. Words from the internet or the brief overtures made concerning this amazing man could never fully explain the conditions and circumstances which persuaded him to barter his labor in return for land and freedom far away from his mother country. In reality, conditions in England had become so horrid that the poor and downtrodden were faced with the decision to leave, face a life of poverty, or die.
During a time when England was ruled by a combination of Kings and religious zealots the separation of classes was growing at an alarming rate. London England may well had obtained the label of an international city but its infastructure was ill prepared for a population estimated near one hundred thousand people by 1650. Imports were increasing but it’s port area had yet to develop docks and receiving areas needed for commerce and trade.
Deep in the heart of London, grand buildings were erected to house royalty who had immeasurable wealth, but as you left the city’s center it was a very dangerous, polluted and impoverished place to live. The Thames River, which meandered through the city’s center, was so contaminated with waste and runoff that its water was considered unsafe to wash clothes, let alone bathe or drink.
Outside of London the rural areas were fareing no better. Constant waring with France and Spain was expensive resulting in exorbantant taxes. Mandatory tithes by the clergy added to the plight of farmers and merchants, causing them to loose land rights they had held for generations.
During the seventeenty century England devised a system called Indentured Servanthood, which encouraged those lost in poverty to sign agreements obligating them to years of labor in the American Colonies in return for a safe passage and a fresh start once their contract was completed. Thousands of young men and women flocked to the port cities ready to board ships never fully understanding the toils which awaited them in both passage and service.
Bartholomew Stovall, from Albury, Surry was one of those who sold himself in order to escape the declining opportunities in England. In mid 1684 he signed an agreement with agent John Bright and set sail on the ‘Booth’ captained by Peter Pagan bound for the Jamestown Colony. Soon after arriving in America he was recognized as being remarkable and quickly developed a relationship with his master, plantation owner Richard Kennon and his infamous wife Elizabeth Worsham Kennon.
After completing his four year contract he was given land and supplies and began his life as a tobacco farmer. Bartholomew had a vision of marrying a lady named Ann and owning a farm where a creek met the river. Most of his life was spent in toil, but he eventually realized his dream and married Ann Burton with whom he fathered six children.
It is said that only one percent of the people who chose the way of an indentured servant realized the dream Bartholomew finally obtained. This book details how many tried to disuade him from his goals but perseverance and foresight guided him as he traveled life’s path and, eventually, found his dream.
This is but a short overview of a brave man’s adventure. It’s a story laced with tales of tragedy, friendships, love and eventual happiness. It serves as an example of what made America a place of freedom and opportunity.