James Pyland the immigrant

By James Pylant
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Do not post or publish without written permission

The third son of Edward Pylande and Margaret Bush, James Pyland was born in St. Mary-le-Port Parish, in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England. A dozen infants were christened at St. Mary-le-Port church in 1604, including “Jamys Pyland, son of Edward,” on 30 August 1604.1

James married while still in his twenties, but apparently the wedding occurred outside of the St. Mary-le-Port neighborhood. By 1633 he had returned to the parish, for church records note that Katherine Pyland, wife of James, was buried 9 August of that year.2 Within in the next few months he remarried to a woman named Alexandra, whose maiden name is unknown. St. Mary-le-Port church records give no indication that she came from that parish. On 4 January 1634 James Pyland, with John West and Richard Bayly, as sureties, and Edmond Baugh took inventory of the estate of Edmund Oakelie, a whitawer (a harness or collar maker), who died intestate in St. Peter’s Parish, in Bristol. The inventory included a credit due by James Piland. The inventory concluded with “The marke of John West, Richard Bayly, James Piland, Edmond Baugh.”3 James and Alexandra were living in St. James Parish, in Bristol, by the fall of that year.4 His sister, Margaret Smith, had her infant daughter christened in honor of James’s new wife in May of 1637.5

To encourage settlement in the Colony of Virginia, a headright system was initiated to grant fifty acres of land to colonists who paid for the transportation of others across the Atlantic and into Virginia. The payer then filed a certificate and either made a claim for patent or sold the headright to someone else who claimed the patent. On 24 June 1642 Francis England claimed a patent on the headright of 746 acres for the transportation of fifteen persons, including “James Piland” and “Alexandra his wife.”6 The arrival date, however, is unknown, for a headright could be claimed several years after immigration. If a person left the colony only to return, the second trip could also be claimed. The system was subject to abuse when an immigrant was claimed on multiple headrights. On 11 November 1642 John Sweete filed a patent for 650 acres on a headright for the transportation of fifteen persons, including Alexandria Piland and Joane Piland. (Sweete’s acreage adjoined that of Francis England.)7 Instead of this second appearance for the name Alexandra Piland being a duplicate claim or for James’s wife making a return to the colony, it was probably for another Alexandra Pyland, who was James’s daughter, as most likely was Joan Pyland.

The first English settlement in what became Isle of Wight County was made by Captain Christopher Lawne when he and his associates arrived in Jamestown with 100 settlers in 1619. They were joined by groups of other English immigrants in 1621 and 1622, and these colonists settled on plantations. In 1634 Virginia’s plantations were carved into eight counties, including Warrascoyack. The next year a census reported 522 inhabitants in the new county. Warrascoyack County’s name was changed to Isle of Wight County in 1637.8

John Sweete, who claimed a headright for Alexandra and Joan Pyland’s transportation, may have been a childhood friend to James Pyland, for one John Sweete was christened in St. Mary-le-Port in 1607.9 More than a hundred years ago, Virginia historians noted that “the emigrants to Isle of Wight were largely people from Bristol, where, in the civil wars, the Cavaliers were very strong.”10 James Pyland, too, was a Royalist supporter, and his connections led to a rapid rise in the colony, not unlike Captain Robert Pyland, a probable cousin from London. The two men had striking similarities—both born to butcher-fathers in England, both came to Virginia in the 1630s, and both gained prominence and influence with seats in the House of Burgesses. Captain Pyland served Warwick County as a burgess in 1647.11 That same year James Piland and Edward Garrett witnessed Alice Bennett’s deed of 150 acres to Mary and Sarah Jackson on 19 July.12

James Pyland and Peter Knight witnessed two of Capt. John Upton’s 100-acre deeds, one to John Oliver, planter,13 and the other to Thomas Greenwood, both in September of 1648.14 On 16 January 1650 John Vasser made his last will and testament, naming Mr. James Pyland and Thomas Walter as overseers.15 On 26 March of that year James Pyland and John Britt witnessed the last will and testament of Justinian Cooper, who left an inheritance to James’s son, Edward.16 The day after Christmas that year, James, with John Penerct, witnessed George Stephens’s assigning all rights to Thomas Boswell.17 James Pyland and Robert Bird were made overseers of John Oliver’s will, dated 19 April 1652, and James, with John Burton and John Renney, also witnessed the document.18 James Pyland and Robert Sabin signed as witnesses to Robert Lawrence’s assigning all rights to a 200-acre patent to Daniel Washburn on 8 July 1652.19 On 30 September of that year Christopher Lewis deed 200 acres to John Burgess “at a place called Blackwater, adjoining James Pyland, Thomas Taberer and Francis Higgins.” The deed’s witnesses were James, Richard Sharp, and Thomas Warner.20 On 26 October James, with Thomas Johnson, witnessed the will of John Stiles.21

James Pyland, although he had gained influence in Virginia, was not without controversy. That arose over his support of Thomas Woodward, Assay Master of the Mint in London, who was dismissed from his post in 1649 for refusing to obey Oliver Cromwell. Woodward, fleeing England, came to the Colony of Virginia, made Isle of Wight County his new home, and vowed to never return to England unless the king was restored to the throne. The House of Burgesses, yielding to the power of Parliament and under Puritan influence, punished one of its members as a Royalist supporter.22 James Pyland, as a sympathizer with Thomas Woodward, had circulated a “blasphemous catechize” was expelled from the House of Burgesses.23
On 25 November 1652 a resolution of the Grand Assembly declared:24

Wee conceive it fitt, that Mr. James Pyland, returned Burgesse for the upper parish of the lsle of Wight, be remooved out of the house, And that he stand committed to answer such things as shall be objected against him, as an abettor of Mr. Thomas Woodward in his mutinous and rebellious declaration, And concerning his the said Mr. Pyland blasphemous catechisme.

Thomas Woodward later became the official surveyor for North Carolina’s first permanent settlement.25

The Restoration brought James Pyland’s return as a member of the House of Burgesses in 1659.26 James was then serving as one of Isle of Wight’s county court clerks.27

On 9 December 1656 George Lobb of Mulberry Island, gentleman, sold 300 acres in Stanley Hundred to John Brewer of Isle of Wight, gentleman, for 3,000 pounds of tobacco and cask. Witnesses to the transaction were Thomas Pritchard, John Smith, and James Pyland.28

Thomas Greenwood made his will in Isle of Wight County on 19 March 1656, which was filed for probate on 9 April 1658. The document was signed in the presence of witnesses James Pyland and James Wilson. Greenwood’s widow, Elizabeth, married James Pyland shortly thereafter.29 James’s marriage to Widow Greenwood afforded him a large tract of land when, on 19 February 1662, he claimed 300 acres granted to Thomas Greenwood a decade earlier which was “due said Pyland as marrying the relict of said Greenwood.”30

James Pyland died in early 1663. His last will and testament has long since disappeared. He did, however, appoint his wife Elizabeth as executrix who posted bond on 9 February 1663.31 His widow survived him by several years, marrying a third time to Thomas Edwards. In 1674 the Edwardses sold Thomas Greenwood’s 300-acre tract, the property Elizabeth inherited from her first husband, and sold a 150-acre tract to John Jennings for 9,500 pounds of tobacco. They disputed her late second husband’s claim to the land, saying, “James Pyland had no right to this land,” and that 50 acres of that property had been given by Greenwood to a relative, Valentine Chitty.32


James Pyland, burgess, christened 30 August 1604, St. Mary-le-Port Parish, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England—died 1663, Isle of Wight County, Colony of Virginia; married (1) [date unknown] to Katherine [—?—] (buried 9 August 1633, St. Mary-le-Port Parish); (2) ca. 1634 to Alexandra [—?—]; (3) ca. 1658, Isle of Wight County, to Elizabeth Greenwood, widow.

Children of James Pyland, all presumably by his second wife, Alexandra:

  1. Alexandra Pyland was christened 16 November 1634 in St. James Parish, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England.33 She came to the Colony of Virginia by 1642.
  2. James Pyland Jr. was christened 12 March 1637 in St. James Parish, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England.34 The disappearance of his name suggests he died young.
  3. Joan Pyland, born in the 1630s in England, was probably the namesake of her great-grandmother, Joan Bush. Joan Pyland came to the Colony of Virginia by 1642. She is not to be confused with Jane Pyland Michael Gurgany, sister of Capt. Robert Pyland.
  4. Edward Pyland, the namesake of his paternal grandfather. In 1650 Justinian Cooper of Isle of Wight County wrote his last will and testament in which he stated, “I give unto Edward Pyland, son of James Pyland, five Hundred pounds Tobo [tobacco] to be paid over year which will be 1651.”35
  5. Richard Pyland [to be continued]

  1. 1604 Christenings: “Jamys Pyland, son of Edward,” as transcribed in F. S. Hockaday, Hockaday Abstracts, Bristol St. Mary Le Port, Gloucester Public Library: Abstracts of Ecclesiastical Records Relating to the Dioceses of Worcester and Gloucester Compiled from Diocesan Records and Other Sources, unpaginated; Family History Library [FHL], Salt Lake City, Utah [FHL] microfilm 423357. [Note: The original parish register was destroyed in a fire during World War II.]
  2. 1633 Burials: “Katherine, wife of James Pyland,” Hockaday Abstracts.
  3. Edwin and Stella George, Bristol Probate Inventories, Part 1: 1542—1650 (Bristol: Bristol Record Society, 2002), pp. 89-91.
  4. 1634 Baptisms: “Alexandra ye daughter of James Piland,” St. James Church Register, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England; FHL microfilm 1596530.
  5. 1637 Christenings: Alexandra Smith, Hockaday Abstracts.
  6. Nell Marion Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1974), p. 140.
  7. Ibid., p. 140.
  8. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, ed., “Isle of Wight County Records,” William and Mary College Quarterly, Vol. VII (April 1899), No. 4, pp. 205-209.
  9. 1607 Christenings: “John Sweet, son of Richard,” Hockaday Abstracts.
  10. “Isle of Wight County Records,” p. 212.
  11. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Volume I (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1915), p. 309.
  12. John Bennett Boddie, Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia: A History of the County of Isle of Wight, Virginia, during the Seventeenth Century, Including Abstracts of the County Records (Chicago: Chicago Law Printing Co., 1938), p. 513.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Boddie, Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia, p. 514.
  15. William & Mary College Quarterly, Vol. 7 (April 1899), No. 4, p. 220.
  16. “The Will of Justinian Cooper,” Virginia Historical Magazine, Vol. 6, pp. 122-123.
  17. Boddie, Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia, p. 518.
  18. Ibid., p. 222.
  19. Ibid., p. 519.
  20. Ibid., p. 520.
  21. Blanche Adams Chapman, Wills and Administrations of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, 1647—1800, Book 1—3 (Westminster, Maryland: Family Line Publications, repr. 1994), p. 2
  22. Boddie, Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia p. 108.
  23. Edward Duffield Neil, Virginia Carolorum: The Colony of Virginia Under the Rule of Charles the First A.D. 1625—A.D. 1685 Based Upon Manuscripts and Documents of the Period (Albany, New York: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1886), p. 229.
  24. H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1619 —1658, Vol. I (Richmond: MCMXV), p. 84.
  25. Boddie, Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia, p. 108.
  26. Ibid., p. 102.
  27. Ibid., p. 703.
  28. Ibid., p. 522.
  29. Chapman, Wills and Administrations of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, p. 3.
  30. Boddie, Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia, p. 683.
  31. Executor’s Bond, Estate of James Piland, Isle of Wight County Record of Wills, Deeds, Etc., Vol. 2, 1661—1719, Reel 23, p. 6, 2nd pagination; Virginia State Archives, Richmond.
  32. Boddie, Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia, p. 596.
  33. 1634 Baptisms: “Alexandra ye daughter of James Piland,” St. James Church Register, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England; FHL microfilm 1596530.
  34. 1637 Baptisms: “James the son of James Piland,” St. James Church Register, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England; FHL microfilm 159630.
  35. “The Will of Justinian Cooper,” Virginia Historical Magazine, Vol. 6, pp. 122-123.