Sunday, April 18, 2010

Carter Family one of Wealthiest in Colonial America


Perhaps there never was an official royal class in North America, but the Carter Family who had huge land holdings in Tide Water Virginia were very close. The fortunes of the Carters in England began when William, Duke of Normandy crossed the English Channel in 1066 to fight for the crown of England. Naturally William brought his most loyal Norman knights with him, and among them was a clan of knights known as Cartiers.

According to the Tapestry, which recorded the Battle of Hastings, William found himself in danger of being surrounded and overwhelmed by English soldiers. The Cartiers rushed to defend their Duke, and saved his life. With out their action, William would surely have been killed, so when he won the battle and became King of England, the Conquer showed his gratitude by giving large estates and other privileges in England and Ireland to the Cartier Knights. The Cartiers became part of the privileged class of England.

The Cartiers were progressive and after a few generations many of the Cartier descendants became wealthy manor owners and businessmen. By the time England founded Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, Cartier had been changed to Carter, and the Carters were among the most educated elite of their time. Around 1612, members of the Carter business cartel began looking at the potential of the emerging tobacco trade in Virginia.

John Carter was born in 1613 at Edmonton, Middlesex, England. He was sent to the Virginia Colony in 1635 and settled along Corotoman River, which flows into the Rappahanock River near Chesapeake bay in Lancaster County, Virginia where he founded 'Corotoman' Plantation. He managed to become a colonel in the militia, and was instrumental in driving out the remaining Indians from the region by 1640.

With the support of wealthy relatives and associates back in England, John Carter had the resources to outfit ships to go to Africa and bring back slaves. He soon discovered that Africans from the Ibo culture were excellent subsistence farmers in a semi-tropical environment, and he chose people from the Ibo culture to become slaves on Corotoman Plantation.

While he eventually had children by his five successive wives, it was his son Robert "King" Carter (1663-1736), by his second wife Sarah Ludlow, whose descendants are associated with the history of the Burke family of Washington County, Ohio.

Carter died 10 June 1669 at Corotoman Plantation, and is buried in Christ Church Cemetery, Lancaster County, Virginia. The descendants of the Ibo people, enslaved and brought to 'Corotoman' Plantation by John Carter were the slaves for future generations of John Carter's descendants.

Robert "King" Carter was born at 'Corotoman' Plantation. The name "King" was not used in jest. By 1700 Robert "King” Carter was the richest man in the English Colonies of North America. In other words “King” Carter was America’s first millionaire! He owned nearly 300,000 acres scattered across the Northern neck of Virginia and he had about 1500 African people enslaved on his many tobacco plantations which were managed by resident managers.

Not only did “King” Carter cultivate tobacco, he owned warehouses where he stored tobacco purchased from other planters, and he owned ships which carried the product to Europe where other Carter family members operated businesses linked to the tobacco trade. His ships were also stocked with trading goods, and sailed down to Africa, where the goods were traded for African captives, who in turn were brought back to Virginia as slaves.

Robert “King” Carter had a son he named Robert Carter Jr., born in 1704. Robert Jr. died in 1732, leaving a son named Robert Carter III, who was born in 1728. “King” Carter raised his grandson Robert Carter III, who became a wealthy planter in his own right, known as Robert Carter III of Nomini Hall Plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia. In 1791, Robert Carter III emancipated 500 slaves, including the ancestors of the Burkes of Washington County, Ohio!

Henry Burke is an historian specializing in Afro-American history and the Underground Railroad.

(** Just storing this here until I can figure out how to put it somewhere else....)

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