Ten years ago, Margaret Rice set out to research the genealogy of her family, the Chappell family of Exeter, a city in the county of Devon in the South West of England.
They were a prominent family, merchants and mayors of Exeter, who flourished in the reign of Elizabeth I, and the trail took an unexpected turn. discovery of a marriage of Johane Chappell to a David Bagwell and the birth of Henry Bagwell in 1589 which led to the story of Henry’s voyage to Virginia in 1609, on the Sea Venture , the flagship of the fleet called the “Third Supply.”
The fleet was sent by the newly formed Virginia Company of London to bring aid to the beleaguered Jamestown settlers – just two years after the colony’s founding. The Sea Venture, with most of the leaders for the new colony, ran aground on the reefs off Bermuda in a fierce storm. After A nine months, the shipwrecked crew and passengers were able to construct two new vessels, the Deliverance and Patience, and most of them reached Jamestown alive – long after they’d been given up for dead.
Henry Bagwell, remained in Virginia and was one of those early colonists who were there at the beginning of this first English settlement in the New World .Others would return to England and in 1625 Henry’s name can be found in records of Virginia, with a house and 50 acres of land, in Charles City County.
By 1630 he had left the mainland and travelled across Chesapeake Bay to the Eastern Shore, settling in what was then known as “Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke” or Accomack Plantation. He became a substantial landowner, acquired a stepfamily through marriage to Alice Stratton, who had been widowed twice leaving her with three children, Thomas Stratton. Mary and Elizabeth Chilcott and he and Alice had three children of his own, John, Rebecca and Thomas Bagwell. Henry served as a church warden, a burgess representing the Accomack Plantation at the House of Burgesses , the first representative body in the New Word ,the first clerk of the first court, in 1632 and a tobacco inspector in 1639.
No one had written a biography of him previously. The result is a 220-page book that sets out what is known about Henry, a figure previously lost to history, though important in his time.
Devon History Society
This is how history should be written! Mrs Rice's thorough research has uncovered an enormous amount of detail about Henry and his family, to which she has added just enough regional and national material to place their lives into a wider context. A vivid picture is given especially of the precarious lives of the early settlers, many of whom had exchanged a comfortable lifestyle for an unknown future. This volume is a fitting memorial to Henry and the determination which he and others showed in finally establishing permanent settlements in Virginia.
Hon. Editor of the Devon Historian