Thomas Swann

Expansion and Development

OnMarch 1, 1638,ThomasSwannI, the lateWilliamSwann’s son and principal heir, patented the 1,200 acres he had inherited on the south side of theJames River, just  east of Smith’s Mount  (Nugent 1969-1979:I:103; Patent Book I Part II:625).  Two months later he patented a second parcel he had inherited from his late father: 300 acres situated near Upper Chippokes Creek (Nugent 1969-1979:I:90; Patent Book I Part II:567). In May 1638 whenThomasGraypatented 550 acres that abutted what became known asGray’s Creek,ThomasSwann’s acreage was identified as a contiguous piece of property.  As time went on,ColonelThomasSwann, who was appointed to the Governor’s Council, acquired additional land in that vicinity.  OnFebruary 4, 1645, he consolidated his holdings into a patent that enveloped 1,950 acres.  In 1655 and 1658 Swann laid claim to 900 acres along the east side of theBlackwaterRiver, within what was thenSurryCounty.  Later, he added to his property in that area.  In 1668 he patented 500 acres inJamesCityCounty(Nugent 1969-1979:I:105, 326, 386, 465; II:55; Patent Book I Part I:631; 4:17, 225: 5:220).  He also owned land onJamestownIsland.

Family History

ThomasSwannI was born inMay 8, 1616, according to genealogical information recorded by his son,Samuel.  As noted above, he was the son ofWilliamandJudithSwannand the grandson ofSirThomasSwannof Southfleet, inKent,England. ThomasSwannI married his first wife,MargaretDebton, onJanuary 13, 1639.  She died at Swann’s Point onApril 5, 1646.  Three years later, onJanuary 13, 1649, he marriedSarahCod(Codd), with whom he produced a son,SamuelSwann. Sarahdied onJanuary 13, 1654, at Swann’s Point.  By 1640 Thomas Swann I had been appointed the official tobacco viewer for the area between Smith’s Fort (at the head of Gray’s Creek) and Grindon Hill (which lay to the east and originally was part of the Treasurers Plantation).  In 1652 whenSurryCountywas formed, he became high sheriff, an indication that he was a county justice.  During the 1640s and 1650s, he served several terms as a burgess in the colony’s assembly, first representingJamesCityCountyand then Surry.  He also served as Surry’s sheriff in 1652 and 1653.  He made numerous appearances in court, sometimes as a plaintiff and sometimes as a defendant.  OnJanuary 29, 1656, Swann made an agreement withThomasHugate, who agreed to construct a small quartering house (twenty-five or thirty feet long) and other outbuildings that together would comprise ninety feet of housing.  While Hugate was constructing Swann’s buildings, he was to occupy “the house next to the waterside,” a twenty foot by forty foot structure, and keep it in good repair.  OccasionallyThomasSwannI was called upon to audit accounts and arbitrate disputes on behalf of the county court.  In July 1655 he married his third wife,SarahChandler, who lived untilNovember 10, 1662.  He quickly remarried, taking as his fourth wife,Ann, the widow ofHenryBrown.  Finally, in 1668 he wedMaryMansfield, his fifth wife, with whom he had a son (ThomasSwannII) and three daughters.  DaughterMarymarriedRichardBland, whereas daughterSarahmarriedHenryRandolphI.  Colonel Thomas Swann made his home at Swann’s Point and he owned taverns in urban Jamestown and at Wareneck, in Surry (Withington 1980:190, 534-536; Surry County Deeds, Wills, &c. 1652-1672:6, 32, 197; Orders 1652-1663:94; Stanard and Stanard 1965:73; Nugent 1969-1979:II:55; McIlwaine 1924:503; Hening 1809-1823:I:298, 358-359, 406; McCartney 2000:III:351-352).

Colonel Thomas Swann’s Position in the Colony

Colonel ThomasSwannI was named to the Governor’s Council in 1659, during Governor WilliamBerkeley’s administration, and he served through the late 1660s.  In 1661 when the assembly decided that tanhouses were to be built in each county, the vestries of Southwark and Lawnes Creek parishes agreed that SurryCounty’s should be built upon Colonel Swann’s land.  In 1671 he purchased a bay of a brick rowhouse in Jamestown and around the same time he acquired 37 ½ acres of land on Jamestown Island, just east of Orchard run, abutting the corporate limits of urban Jamestown.  In 1672, when there were heightened tensions with the Dutch, Colonel Thomas Swann I was named to the commission responsible for seeing that a brick fort was built near the western end of Jamestown Island. The popular tavern Swann owned in Jamestown, which at first was managed by his servants but later was placed in the hands of a succession of tenants, was burned on September 19, 1676, when the rebel Nathaniel Bacon put the town to the torch. However, Swann was sympathetic to Bacon’s views and his son, Samuel, was married to Sarah, the daughter of executed rebel William Drummond I.  Colonel Thomas Swann I allegedly sat in on the meeting at which Bacon’s followers discussed burning the capital city.  Some of his detractors called him “ye great toad.”  In 1677 the Special Commissioners thatKingCharlesII sent toVirginia to investigate the causes of Bacon’s Rebellion stayed in Colonel Thomas Swann I’s home at Swann’s Point.  This gave him an ample opportunity to influence their opinions.  AfterGovernorWilliamBerkeley vacated office, Swann regained his council seat.  He also rebuilt his tavern inJamestown.  Swann often stayed at the tavern when he was in the capital on official business.  When he died onSeptember 16, 1680, he was buried at Swann’s Point (Hening 1809-1823:II:568;Bruce 1898:68; Surry County Deeds, Wills. &c. 1652-1672:168; Order Book 1671-1690:9, 81, 179-180; Stanard and Stanard 1965:38; McIlwaine 1924:491, 514; Withington 1980:535;C.O. 5/1371 f 268; 1/39 f 65; McCartney 2000:III:351-352).  In 1670, whenAugustineHerrmann (1673) made a map ofVirginia, he indicated that plantations lined the banks of theJames River.  One was  shown near Swann’s Point (Figure 2).