How did we get to America?
I’ll begin by stating this is a compilation of various family, internet and other sources researched over several years…a lot of efforts from many people are included and shamelessly plagiarized. They are owed a great deal for these efforts, but I am unapologetically more interested in getting historical information out to the family than citing each and every source. I am not a hardcore genealogist…I am simply curious where my family roots come from. However, I have endeavored to be diligent in assembling this information, but there are still bound to be inaccuracies when dealing with incomplete records compiled over several hundred years. I do need to give a special thanks to Aunt Janice…by providing a number of old family photos and her tribal knowledge she gave me the kick in the ass I needed to find out where this family actually originated.
While I will continue to dig deeper, it appears I may not be able to go back too much further than the Highlands of Scotland in 1600’s. The principal source of information about births in Scotland before 1855 is the registers of baptism kept by the Church of Scotland. Few of these survive from before 1700 and it seems If you have got back to 1700, you have got much further back than most people with Scots as ancestors. Unless the person was from a wealthy or landowning family, or had a criminal record, the likelihood of finding much information about him is small. We were lucky enough to have a relative named Silvester Prophet that rebelled against the Crown, and so was sentenced to be shipped off to the Virginia Colonies. I’ll set the stage with a little rundown of the political climate that led the lad (he would have been around 19 when he arrived in America) to rebel against the King.
There is every indication that Silvester was a Jacobite, so there is a strong possibility that he and his family were not adherents of the Church of Scotland. Many Jacobites were Episcopalian, which helps to explain why their baptisms don't appear in the Church of Scotland registers, where much of the early recorded history was kept. Lucky for us, and perhaps for him, he was a rebel Jacobite soldier and was captured at the Battle of Preston, Lancashire England on 9 November 1715.
Jacobitism was the political movement dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, and the Kingdom of Ireland. The movement took its name from the Latin form Jacobus of the name of King James II and VII. Jacobitism was a response to the deposing of James II and VII in 1688 when he was replaced by his daughter Mary II jointly with her husband and first cousin William of Orange. The Stuarts lived on the European mainland after that, occasionally attempting to regain the throne with the aid of France and Spain. The primary seats of Jacobitism were Ireland and Scotland, particularly the Scottish Highlands. In England, Jacobitism was strongest in the north, and some support also existed in Wales.
Many embraced Jacobitism because they believed parliamentary interference with monarchical succession to be illegitimate, and many Catholics hoped the Stuarts would end discriminatory laws. Still other people of various allegiances became involved in the military campaigns for all sorts of motives. In Scotland the Jacobite cause became entangled in the last throes of the warrior clan system, and became a lasting romantic memory. The emblem of the Jacobites is the White Rose of York. White Rose Day is celebrated on 10 June, the anniversary of the birth of the Old Pretender in 1688.
England and Scotland
In lowland Scotland, the Catholics tended to come from the gentry and formed the most ideologically committed supporters, drawing on almost two centuries of subterfuge as a minority persecuted by the state and rallying enthusiastically to Jacobite armies as well as contributing financial support to the court in exile. Some Scottish Highland clans such as the Clan Macdonald of Clanranald remained Catholic, but they were exceptions.
Just as much dedicated support in England came from the Nonjuring Anglicans, which started with Church of England clergy who refused on principle to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary while James still lived, and developed into an Episcopalian schism of the church with small congregations in all the English cities. In many respects, Jacobites perceived themselves as the heirs of the Royalists or Cavaliers of the English Civil War era, who had fought for James II's father Charles I and for the Established Church against the Parliamentarians - who stood for the primacy of Parliament and for religious dissent. Jacobite supporters displayed pictures of both Cavalier and Jacobite heroes in their homes.
Scottish Episcopalians provided over half of the Jacobite forces in Britain, and although Dundee's rising in 1689 came mostly from the western Highlands, in later risings Episcopalians came roughly equally from the northeast Scottish Lowlands north of the River Tay and from the Highland clans. They too were described as Nonjurors. As Protestants they could take part in Scottish politics, but were in a minority and were repeatedly discriminated against in legislation favouring the established Church of Scotland. The clergy could even be imprisoned, as occurred in the Stonehaven Tolbooth after three clergymen held services at the chapel at Muchalls Castle. However, many Episcopalians were quiet about any Jacobite sympathies and were able to accommodate themselves to the new regime. About half of the Episcopalians supporting the Jacobite cause came from the Lowlands, but this was obscured in the risings by their tendency to wear Highland dress as a kind of Jacobite uniform.
The Scottish Highlands
To the Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highland clans, to whom the supporters of Jacobitism were known as Seumasaich, the conflict was more about inter-clan politics than about religion, and a significant factor was resistance to the territorial ambitions of the (Presbyterian) Campbells of Argyll. There was a precedent for post 1689 Jacobitism during the period of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, when clans from the western Highlands had fought for James's father Charles I against the Campbells and the Covenanters. Another factor in Highland Jacobitism was James VII's sympathetic treatment of the Highland clans. Whereas previous monarchs since the late 16th century had been antagonistic to the Gaelic Highland way of life, James had worked sympathetically with the clan chieftains in the Commission for Pacifying the Highlands. Some Highland chieftains therefore viewed Jacobitism as a means of resisting hostile government intrusion into their territories. The significance of their support for the Stuarts was that the Highlands was the only part of Britain which still maintained private armies, in the form of clan levies. During the Jacobite Risings, they provided the bulk of Jacobite manpower.
So, in this political environment from Eassie, in county Angus in the Scottish Highlands lived Silvester Prophet, his last name (in one explanation) possibly coming from the Scottish pronunciation of “Proudfoot”, in a time when few could read or write, he most likely could not either and the clerks wrote down their best guess, and this name spelling is from the ship’s official prisoner manifest. Silvester was a rebel with the forces of General Thomas Forster.
During the rebellion of 1715 the rebel forces entered Preston (England) on 9 November and, after proclaiming as their king the chevalier of St. George, remained there for several days, during which the English government forces advanced upon them. The town was assaulted, and on 14 November the rebel general Thomas Forster surrendered his army to the King's forces. 637 that were taken prisoner were tried, convicted and sent to the American colonies the following spring as indentured servants for a seven-year period. Those who refused to be voluntarily indentured were forced into that condition upon arrival in the colonies, although if wealthy enough freedom could be purchased. Silvester Prophet was shown as being "Not Indentured" on the ship “Elizabeth and Anne”, commanded by Edward Trafford, bound for Virginia and Jamaica from Liverpool, 28 July 1716, with 126 prisoners. (128 prisoners listed in manifest. 29 were indentured, and 83 not indentured.)
The voyage across the Atlantic was not pleasant: "3 months at sea chained in groups of six below decks, fed molasses and oatmeal, salt beef and biscuits, washed down with water red from being stored in improperly cleaned claret barrels and cheered only by the two gills of gin distributed on sundays, to be shared amongst the six men in each chain".
So, Silvester the Scot came to the James River colonies alone and apparently not of his own free will. These "political prisoners" were indentured after they arrived in Jamestown. Being indentured was apparently not a social stigma and in fact a high percentage of all these early "cavaliers" were indentured. At the end of 7 years of indenture servants were typically given clothes, a rifle and some land. The usual allotment, called a headright, was 50 acres, and was designed to lure settlers to the new land. Some documentation shows him living by Tarred Rat Creek and at the south branch of Lickinghole Creek.
Silvester married Alice Pleasants in 1724 in Goochland Virginia and went on to have four boys and three girls, Lucy, John, David, William, James, Anne and Elizabeth. He seems to have done very well for himself and family in this new land, most likely in the tobacco trade. He must have had slaves, but most Virginia tax and census records, where this might be noted, were destroyed during the Civil War.
Meanwhile, a country is busy being born…
You must keep in mind that when Silvester arrived in 1717 Virginia (much bigger than the state we know today) tobacco was the cash crop and needed plenty of manpower to tend the fields. Slavery was formalized in 1660 to help meet this economic demand. The white population of the entire colonies was only 282,000 in 1710. But Virginia was still a wilderness full of conflict with the native tribes, the colonies had already experienced disagreements with the crown leading to Bacon’s Rebellion and the Plant Cutting Revolt. All these growing pains were building steam for the American Revolution, which Silvester would not live long enough to experience.
Silvester received a land grant from King George II in 1738 (this was fairly common). His land patent was for 300 acres on the North side of the James River in Goochland County, VA. On March 19, 1738, he sold 150 acres of land (part of the 300 acres) to Mary Bashett and her son John Tuggle for “eleven pounds lawful money of Virginia”. Then, on March 19, 1743, five years later, he bought the100 acre Messuage Plantation from Marin Duncan for ten pounds. Silvester also worked for other people when he could find work. In 1744, he was paid 150 pounds of tobacco by Charles Toney for six days work. 400 lbs of tobacco by Michael Holland in March 1746 for 15 days work and then in August 1761 he received 225 lbs of tobacco from James Gresham for 9 days work. On 7 April 1763 he sold Joseph Gresham of Albemarle County, 100 acres of land for 20 pounds.
Last Will and Testament
Silvester’s will was made out April 21, 1767. It was probated 21 October 1767 after his death on 10 April, 1767, 8 years before the Revolutionary War broke out and having lived in America for 50 years.
From the will: ...To wife Alice Prophet, my plantation whereon I now live, during her natural life, 5 pounds cash, my mare, saddle and bridle, all my stock, bed furniture, my Great Coat, the stock lent as aforesaid. To son James Prophet 5 pounds cash. To son David Prophet 5 pounds cash. To son John Prophet, my land and stock after his mother's death, my coat and jacket and a pair of stockings. To son William Prophet, 40 shillings. To daughters Anne Emmery and Lucy Macomack, five pounds each. To granddaughter Susana Hopper, my bed and furniture which I now lie on. To grandson, David Hopper, the remainder of my clothes.
The 3rd child, David, born around 1730, is the son that would continue our line.