Thomas Garnett, Ancient Planter

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Thomas Garnett, Ancient Planter

Birthdate: (50)
Birthplace: Kirby Lonsdale, Cumbria/Lancashire, England
Death: Died in Elizabeth City, Virginia
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Garnett and Elizabeth Garnett
Husband of Elizabeth Garnett
Father of Susannah Elizabeth Foster; Thomas Garnett; John Garnett; Mary Foster; James Garnett, Capt. and 4 others
Brother of Anthony Garnett

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Thomas Garnett, Ancient Planter

Thomas Garnett, Ancient Planter, (1) was born in 1585, probably in Lancashire, England. He died after 1635 probably in Essex County, Virginia.

Parents: not proven (see Family Notes)


  • 1610: Arrived in Jamestown aboard the Swann in 1610 – taken from “Hotten’s Lists" - as an indentured servant.
  • 1619: On August 3, 1619, Captain William Powell Jamestown, a burgess, made allegations against Garnett, who was one of his servants. He claimed that Garnett was lewd and treachorous and said that he had behaved wantonly with a widowed female servant. (2)
  • 1624: Free man and household head, living in Elizabeth City with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Susan.
  • 1635: On July 3, 1635, Thomas Garnett patented 200 acres of land of Elizabeth City (19) near the Little Poquoson River, acquiring his acreage by means of the headright system (VCR 3:169; CBE 13, 44, 66; PB 1 Pt. 1:202; DOR 1:61). (2)
  • At some point John moved northwest into Essex county, on the Rappahannock river. The Garnett's were to remain here for many generations to come. In the Order Book of 1692-1695, on page 84, for Essex County there is recorded a deed by John Baker of Kingston Parish, Gloucester County to John Garnett of said Parish and County, a planter. By this deed, John Baker conveyed to John Garnett 600 acres of land in Essex County. This land transfer indicates that John Garnett had been one of the lucky ones to survive a very difficult period in the history of the Virginia colony and had become one of the most prosperous planters of this early era. (3)

A "Colourful Personality"

Thomas appears to have had a very colourful and distinctive personality. The following entry from the Journal of the House of Burgesses of Virginia dated Tuesday, August 3, 1619 reveals that he was most certainly a man of great spirit and boldness---and quite possibly also a "troublemaker" and rogue.

"...Captain William Powell presented to the assembly a petition to have justice against a lewd and treacherous servant of his, who by false accusation given up in writing to the governor sought not only to get him deposed from his government of James City, and utterly (according to the proclamation) to be degraded from the place and title of a Captaine, but to take his life from him also. And so out of the said Petition sprang the order following: Captain William Powell presented a petition to the General Assembly against one Thomas Garnett a servant of his not only for extreme neglect of his business, to the great loss & prejudice of the said Captaine, and for openly and impudently abusing his House, in full sight both of Master and Mistress, through wantonness with a woman servant of theirs, a widdowe, but also for falsely accusing him to the Governor both of Drunkenness, & Thefte, & besides for bringing his fellow servants to testifie on his side, wherein they justly failed him."

Further to this Petition by William Powell, the General Assembly, and the Governor himself, passed sentence upon Thomas Garnett that the said defendant "should stand four days with his ears nailed to the Pillory" [ouch] that is to say from Wednesday August 4th and for likewise Thursday, Friday and Saturday next following, and every of those four days should be publicly whipped. Clearly Thomas Garnett was indentured to Captain William Powell.

It is not evident how serious or true the accusations leveled by William Powell against Thomas actually were. The only testimony offered in the case came from William Powell himself, and he was known to be a drunkard and gambler. Furthermore, William Powell was well acquainted with the governor, played cards with him and allegedly lost his beautiful estate called Chippokes, on the James River, in a card game with the governor. Such comradeship between Captain Powell and the governor would not likely ensure fair treatment for Thomas against the word of his accuser.

There is another reference that implies this may have been a more general 'rebellion' by a number of William Powell's indentured servants, led by Thomas. Thomas was then banished to Elizabeth City. Yet another site makes the assumption, that since Powell was a tobacco planter, that Thomas worked in the tobacco fields.

Fifteen years later, Thomas' status in life had undergone a tremendous change for the better. By that time, he was no longer an indentured servant but had become a land owner in his own right. The obtaining of land in the American wilderness was a unique process in the early days of the English settlements. Nobody came to America and purchased land. Even if that had been possible, nobody had any money to buy it with. Up to the year 1634 there was no county organization in the colony. The London Company had restricted all landholding to small patches except for larger grants that may have gone to officers and friends of the company. Some grants to free colonists were made as early as 1619, the year of Thomas' encounter with the Virginia House of Burgesses for the defamation of Captain William Powell, but this was the first representative assembly called together in America and Thomas Garnett's case came before the House in the first year of its existence.

Family Notes

  • Thomas' English origins have been the subject of inquiry by serveral researchers. There is agreement that he, and probably also his wife, likely came to America from Lancashire. This presupposes that the child he had in England, John, and perhaps his English wife as well, were left behind. Records of that county in England show that the Garnetts were settled there from at least the 12th century. The parish records for the church at Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire show a Thomas Garnett, son of Robert Garnett, baptised there and it could be the same Thomas that later migrated to America.
  • Possibly the son of Robert Garnett (c1555). There is no conclusive proof that the Thomas Garnett who landed in America in 1610 was actually the son of Robert Garnett of Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire. This theory was originally posed in the 1930s by the English writer, David Garnett, who suggested that Thomas Garnett of the Virginia colony might have been the same Thomas Garnett who is recorded in parish registers of Kirkby Lonsdale as the son of Robert Garnett, a descendant of Anthony Garnett of Castle Dairy. However, there is no concrete proof of any direct connection between the American Garnetts of Virginia and the Garnett family of Castle Dairy and Kirkby Lonsdale in England.


  1. Order of Descendants of Ancient Planters (1606-1616)
  2. Virginia immigrants and adventurers, 1607-1635: a biographical dictionary By Martha W. McCartney pg 320
  3. The Garnets of America


From rootsweb:

GARNETT, Thomas [1585-?]

Thomas GARNETT, at the young age of 25, made his way from England to the New World.

So, thanks to his daring voyage to a new life, the name of GARNETT appears at a very early date in the records of Virginia. Some indications are that he may have come to America as an indentured servant---as did many others during the early years of the colony. We are left to ponder the reasons he may have had for leaving his family back in England and venturing to new and uncharted territory. Perhaps it was for some unknown family reasons...the spirit of adventure...or to seek his fortunes on a new shore.

In a "Muster of Inhabitants" taken in 1624-25, Thomas GARNETT was living at Elizabeth City, aged 40, having come to Virginia in 1610 in the good ship "Swan". Living with him were his wife, Elizabeth, aged 26, who came in the "Neptune" in 1618, and their young daughter, Susan aged three.

Thomas GARNETT was therefore born in about 1584-5 and might have been the Thomas GARNETT, son of Robert GARNETT who was baptized in the parish church at Kirby Lonsdale, Lancashire, on December 14, 1585 and therefore related to Thomas GARNETT, son of Anthony and Susan GARNETT who in 1565 rebuilt and lived in the thirteenth century house at Kendal in Westmorland known as the Castle Dairy.

We are left to wonder too why it was that Thomas preceeded his wife to America by some eight years---were they previously known to each other or even married or betrothed back in England [she would have been 18 years old when Thomas embarked for America]? Did Elizabeth perhaps come to America with her own family...or was it a marriage of convenience after she arrived?

The date for Thomas GARNETT's arrival in Virginia is at a turning point in the history of the English colony at Jamestown. In 1609, Captain John Smith had returned to England and by 1610 the settlers had become discouraged. They planned to embark for England, but returned to Jamestown when they heard of the arrival of Lord Delaware with new colonists and fresh supplies. Among the arriving colonists in 1610 must have been our Thomas GARNETT.

He states that his wife Elizabeth arrived in the "Neptune" in 1618. This date serves to identify Elizabeth GARNETT as being among the very first women to arrive in the colony. Previously the settlers had almost all been men. In 1619 one boat load of young women arrived to become wives of the lonely settlers. Each settler gave the London Company 120 pounds of tobacco in payment for his wife's passage.

Elizabeth GARNETT was one of the fortunate colonists [and one of the few women] who escaped the Indian massacre of 1622. Her arrival in 1618 predates that of most of the other young women in the Jamestown settlement by at least a year.

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Thomas Garnett, Ancient Planter's Timeline

December 14, 1585
Kirby Lonsdale, Cumbria/Lancashire, England
August 3, 1619
Age 33
Elizabeth City Co., Virginia
Age 37
Elizabeth City, Virginia
Age 39
Age 49
Elizabeth City, Virginia