About James Crewes
James Crewes (1622 or 1623–1677)
James Crewes took part in Bacon's Rebellion (1676–1677). Born in England, by 1655 Crewes had settled in Virginia, where he kept a store at his Henrico County home and engaged in the fur trade. Fearful of Indian attacks, Crewes and his neighbors persuaded Nathaniel Bacon to organize local men to defend the colony. After Bacon attacked some Indians during the spring of 1676, he was rebuked by Governor Sir William Berkeley. Crewes took Bacon's side and possibly marched with a company of Bacon's men to Lower Norfolk County. He was captured and was among a group of prisoners delivered to the governor on January 19, 1677. Singled out at a court-martial as "a most notorious Actor & Assistor in the Rebellion," Crewes was one of seven men convicted of treason and rebellion against the king on January 24. He was sentenced to hang two days later.
Crewes, participant in Bacon's Rebellion, was born in England and was the brother of Edward Crewes and Francis Crewes, residents of London. The place or places of their births and names of their parents are not known. James Crewes consistently signed his name in that fashion, but contemporaries sometimes spelled the surname without the second e. While in London on December 1, 1652, Crewes signed a deposition concerning the death of an acquaintance in Virginia the previous year. At that time Crewes described himself as a twenty-nine-year-old merchant. Little else is known about his life in England other than that he was educated; he later owned a Latin Bible, which suggests he knew that language.
The 1652 deposition indicates that Crewes had been in Virginia in 1651, and the appearance of his name on headright lists suggests that in his capacity as a merchant he may have made four or more trips to Virginia. Like many other merchants, he eventually settled in the colony, certainly not later than 1655. He acquired 541 acres of land on Turkey Island in Henrico County. The house that he owned there twenty years later was substantial, with four fireplaces, brick chimneys, and a separate kitchen. As part of his continued commercial interests, Crewes also kept a store, engaged in the fur trade, and dealt with business associates back in England. By 1670 he was a captain of militia.
Charles City County Court records beginning in December 1655 contain references to Crewes acting as a merchant, witness, jury member, trustee, and executor of estates. During the winter of 1655–1656 one of the disputes in which he was involved led to blows and a stabbing that was not fatal. Crewes acquired a few servants, including two or more of African descent, and he obtained permission to keep an Indian servant. He probably married Margaret Llewellin, who witnessed a will as Margaret Crewes on May 1, 1662, but when Crewes wrote his own will in 1676, he had no living wife or children. He bequeathed property to relatives of Giles Carter, but whether he was related to Carter by marriage or otherwise is not certain.
During the winter of 1675–1676, Crewes, William Byrd I, and a few other residents of Henrico County persuaded their near neighbor Nathaniel Bacon to take the lead in organizing local men to defend the colony against anticipated Indian attacks. In the spring, after Bacon had attacked and defeated some Indians and Governor Sir William Berkeley had rebuked him and removed him from his seat on the Council, Crewes and Bacon won election to the House of Burgesses from Henrico County. On May 26, 1676, a week before the General Assembly met, Crewes told Berkeley that Bacon wished to appeal to the Crown the governor's condemnations of his actions. When the assembly met, Bacon made repeated demands that he be commissioned a general to wage war on the Indians, and the colony then erupted into civil war. Crewes took the side of Bacon against the governor. In Berkeley's colorful phrase, Crewes acted throughout as "Bacons Parasite, and Trumpett that continually went about the Country extollinge all Bacons actions & Justifyinge the Rebellion."
The actions of Crewes are poorly documented, but he took the precaution of writing his will on July 23. Eleven days later, on August 3, 1676, when Bacon issued one of his proclamations at Middle Plantation, Crewes signed the document. He was probably one of the men who circulated copies for subscription and perhaps carried along his small English-language Bible to administer oaths of allegiance. It is possible that he marched with a company of Bacon's men as far southeast as Lower Norfolk County during the autumn. Crewes may have been one of the last of Bacon's principal followers to be captured. He was almost certainly among the fifteen or sixteen men the captain of the warship Young Prince delivered to the governor on January 19, 1677.
Berkeley presided at a court-martial at Green Spring, in James City County, on January 24, 1677, at which Crewes and six other men were tried and convicted of treason and rebellion against the king. The trial record singled out Crewes as "a most notorious Actor & Assistor in the Rebellion." James Crewes was sentenced to be hanged at Jamestown on the following Friday, January 26, 1677. The place of his burial is not recorded. The property of the condemned men was subject to confiscation, but the king declined to proceed against Crewes's estate. In August 1684 William Randolph purchased a portion of the Turkey Island property, which became the seat of the subsequently influential Randolph family of Virginia.
- 1622–1623 - In one of these years, James Crewes is born in England. Like his brothers Edward and Francis Crewes, he lives in London.
- 1651 - James Crewes is in Virginia this year, but the date of his arrival is unknown.
- December 1, 1652 - James Crewes, who describes himself as a twenty-nine-year-old merchant, signs a deposition in London concerning the death of an acquaintance in Virginia the previous year.
- 1655 - By this year, James Crewes permanently settles in Virginia. He acquires 541 acres of land on Turnkey Island in Henrico County.
- 1670 - By this year, James Crewes is a captain of the Henrico County militia.
- Winter 1675–1676 - James Crewes, William Byrd I, and a few other Henrico County residents persuade their near neighbor Nathaniel Bacon to take the lead in organizing local men to defend the colony against anticipated Indian attacks.
- May 26, 1676 - James Crewes tells Governor Sir William Berkeley that Nathaniel Bacon wishes to appeal to the Crown the governor's condemnation of his actions.
- June 5, 1676 - The House of Burgesses gathers in Jamestown. Among the participants is Nathaniel Bacon of Henrico County who, with James Crewes, is engaged in a rebellion against Virginia governor Sir William Berkeley in part over Bacon's intentions to attack Virginia Indians.
- June 6, 1676 - Nathaniel Bacon and a company of armed men arrive in Jamestown, where Bacon is seized by armed agents and taken before Virginia governor Sir William Berkeley and the General Assembly. Bacon apologizes on bended knee for his rebellion. Berkeley pardons Bacon but then changes his mind.
- June 23, 1676 - Nathaniel Bacon returns to Jamestown with 500 men and demands Virginia governor Sir William Berkeley commission him as a general to lead the colony against the Indians. After a standoff, the governor yields to Bacon's demands.
- July 1676 - Virginia governor Sir William Berkeley reverses course and again declares Nathaniel Bacon a rebel and travels to Gloucester County to recruit men to fight him. Bacon and his men march to Middle Plantation, the site of present-day Williamsburg.
- July 23, 1676 - James Crewes writes his will.
- August 3, 1676 - Nathaniel Bacon, in rebellion against the Virginia governor, obtains the endorsement of seventy leading Virginia men to his leadership against the Indians.
- January 19, 1677 - James Crewes is almost certainly among the fifteen or sixteen men who the captain of the warship Young Prince delivers to Governor Sir William Berkeley at the end of Bacon's Rebellion.
- January 24, 1677 - In a court-martial over which Governor Sir William Berkeley presides at Green Spring in James City County, James Crewe and six other men are tried and convicted of treason and rebellion against the king.
- January 26, 1677 - Records indicate that James Crewe likely hangs this day, having been convicted of treason and rebellion against the king during Bacon's Rebellion.
- August 1684 - William Randolph purchases a portion of the late James Crewes's Turkey Island property, which becomes the seat of the subsequently influential Randolph family in Virginia.
Harbury, Katharine E. "James Crewes." In Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2, edited by Sara B. Bearss et al., 557–558. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
Contributed by Katharine E. Harbury and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. The Dictionary of Virginia Biography is a publication of the Library of Virginia. APA Citation: Harbury, K. E., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography (2011, July 26). James Crewes (1622 or 1623–1677). Retrieved READ_DATE, from Encyclopedia Virginia: http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Crewes_James_1622_or_1623-1677.
MLA Citation: Harbury, Katharine E. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "James Crewes (1622 or 1623–1677)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Ed. Sara Bearss and Caitlin Newman. READ_DATE. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. 26 Jul. 2011 <http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Crewes_James_1622_or_1623-1677>.
James Crewes's Timeline
December 7, 1623
Saint Pancras, London
Varina, Henrico, Virginia, USA
Bermuda Hundred, Chesterfield, Virginia
Varina, Henrico, Virginia, USA
March 1, 1659
Charles City, Virginia
Turkey Island, see note page
January 28, 1677
Varina Parish, Henrico County, Virginia
See note page