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February 28, 1699/1700 b

Christopher Scandrett Master of the Bengal - Merch’t of Bristoll by vertue of a Letter of Attry from Wm Smith Merch’t & Compa owners of the sd Shipp appoints Alex’r Spence Gent’l his attry in all Causis depending for or agt him in his qualification Ordered the same bee Recorded (Westmoreland County Order Book 1698 - 1705, Part 2 1700 – 1701. p. 72a.)


This Court appearance occurred on the same day as the indentured servitude entries for Patrick, Henry, and Roger. Based on numerous conversations I have had with professional genealogists in Virginia and England, it is almost certain that this is the ship that transported the boys to Virginia.

The vast majority of indentured servants who came to colonial Virginia were transported by small merchants and traders. (Thad W. Tate and David L. Ammerman. The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century: Essays on Anglo-American Society. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1979. p. 77.) They were typically sent along with a shipload of goods needed by the colony. (James Curtis Ballagh. White Servitude in the Colony of Virginia. New York: Burt-Franklin, 1969. p. 41.) These voyages were commonly undertaken in concert with the tobacco crop cycle. They would leave for Virginia with their goods and indentured servants during the September to December timeframe and would return to Great Britain in the February to March timeframe loaded with tobacco. (Tate & Ammerman. p. 91.) This scenario fits the situation reflected in the Westmoreland County records.

A general review of the records reveals that there were many days when no indentured servants appeared in court and that there were other days when only a few individuals appeared to have their servitude obligation confirmed. However, every so often, a group of a dozen or so indentured servants are recorded on a given day. This is the case when Patrick appeared. In addition to Patrick, Henry, and Roger, the masters and ages of nine other boys were recorded that day.

As a merchant ship brought their goods and their small group of indentured servants into port, the master of the ship would make sure that faces were washed, haircuts were administered and that the servants were made to look presentable. The merchant might put an ad in the local newspaper or by some other means make known the fact that he was in port with indentured servants. On an appointed day, there would be what amounted to an auction. Buyers would feel muscles, judge health, and converse with the servants before making their choice(s). (Abbot Emerson Smith. Colonists in Bondage. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1965. pp. 19 & 221.) Presumably, the Master of the ship would not be paid for the indentured servant until the court confirmed the indenture obligation. At least, this appears to be the situation reflected in the Westmoreland records.

This record of Christopher Scandrett, Master of the Bengal Merchant from Bristol, England, appears in the court proceedings for that day immediately following the consecutive entries for ten of the twelve boys. The other two boys’ entries immediately follow Scandrett’s entry. It looks as though all of the indentured servants were processed in a batch, with Scandrett among them. In this case, three of the nine boys preceding Scandrett’s entry (Patrick, Henry, and Roger), were claiming to have other indentures. It seems logical that if Scandrett had transported the boys, he would not have been paid by the individuals who had purchased their servitude until the issue of pretended indenture was resolved. Per the court orders, this would take a month. REF: February 28, 1699/1700 a. As previously cited, the merchant ships typically returned to Great Britain by March. This entry for Scandrett at the end of February is in coordination with that timeframe, but a month later would not be. It seems reasonable, therefore, to assume that Scandrett was appointing Spence to take care of outstanding business matters so that he could return to England, most likely loaded with tobacco. Logically, the business matters could have included collection of the payments for the three boys.

A further review of Westmoreland County records reveals that this was not an isolated incident. There were other occasions on which a group of indentured servants were processed in court as a batch, with a ship captain or master among them who was appointing an attorney to act on their behalf. In fact, one example can be found only one month earlier on January 31, 1699/1700 when fourteen indentured servants were processed consecutively, with Captain John Jones among them appointing William Fitzhugh to act on his behalf. (Westmoreland County Order Book 1698 - 1705, Part 2 1700 – 1701. p. 69a.) Other Westmoreland records as well as the records of other Virginia counties for this time of year disclose that this was not at all an uncommon occurrence.

Discussions with several professional genealogists about this entry and the facts and circumstances surrounding it leave little doubt that the Bengal Merchant of Bristol was the ship that brought Patrick to America. Records at the Virginia State Library also reveal that this was not the only appearance of Christopher Scandrett and the Bengal Merchant in Virginia ports. It is hoped additional information can be found in English records (such as a manifest for the voyage) to help establish a trail back to Patrick's origin.

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