And Then What Happened? John Fontaine Part III
Further Insights Into John Fontaine and The First Germanna Colonyⓒ
By Craig M. Kilby
And Then What Happened?
Having brought John Fontaine’s story this far, it would not be fair to ignore the rest of it. Unless otherwise noted, the balance of this account comes from James Porter Alexander’s The Journal of John Fontaine.
His father wrote in his autobiography that Fontaine’s primary objective for his voyage to Virginia was to find suitable land to set up a plantation. In this he did not fail.
After returning from the Germanna expedition, he settled his affairs in Williamsburg. He proceeded to Hampton and set sail for New York on 19 October 1716.
About Hampton Port
The precise location at which the First Germanna colony first landed on Virginia soil is an open question. The records are silent on the issue. We do not know the name of the ship on which they sailed or the port at which they first landed. To this author’s knowledge, no examination of the Naval Office Returns at the Public Records Office has been conducted by any researcher.
When Fontaine set sail for New York he first arrived at Hampton where he sent his horses back to Williamsburg. We also know that the ship bearing the first colony of Huguenot emigrants landed at Hampton in 1700, where they were met by the Governor at that time. Fontaine wrote quite a bit about Hampton and it is worth quoting his journal in full on this topic:
October 17, 1716. At Hampton in Virginia. This town lies in a plain within ten miles of the mouth of the James River and about one mile inland. From the side of the main river there is a small arm of the river that comes on both sides of this town and within a small matter of making it an island.
It is a place of the greatest trade in all Virginia, and commonly where all men of war [a type of ship] lie before this arm of the river comes up to the town.
It is not navigable for large ships by reason of a bar of sand which lies between the mouth or coming in and the main channel, but all sloops and small ships can come up to the town.
This is the best outlet in all Virginia and Maryland and when there is any fleet made, they make up here and can go out to sea with the first start of wind.
There are about one hundred houses here but few of any note. There is no church in this town. They have the best oysters and fish of all sorts here of any place in the colony.
The inhabitants of this town drive a great trade with New York and Pennsylvania, and are also convenient to trade with Maryland.
They do not reckon this town very healthy because there are great mud banks and wet marshes about it which have a very unwholesome smell at low water.
There is good fowling hereabouts. We met at Mr Irewin’s [Henry Irwin, Naval Officer for the York River District] where we were very merry and supped well and to bed.
Fontaine stayed in New York for six weeks, where he met with many Huguenots in that city and dined with Governor Hunter.
There seems to have been no particular reason for his going there other than to fulfill his father’s initial mission to travel the country, though he had already made up his mind in favor of Virginia and had already purchased a farm in King William County (see below.)
He returned from New York to Virginia via horseback all the way to Williamsburg.
His route took him through Philadelphia, New Castle (Delaware), through Maryland and down the Del Marva peninsula to Accomac County on the Eastern shore of Virginia.
From there, he took a sloop (with his horse) across the bay to Windmill Point (the southern tip of the Northern Neck). He arrived in Williamsburg on 1 December 1716.
His journal entry for December 3rd says “Set out from Williamsburg and went to my plantation in King William County and put all things in order and got my servants and overseer that were all run away.”
This is the first we learn that he bought or obtained any land in King William County. Owing to the severe loss of records in that county, it is not known exactly when or from whom he obtained it.
Even though he had imported himself and four servants and was thus entitled to 250 acres, there is no record of any patent to him in the records of the Virginia land office.
According to Alexander, the plantation was on the north side of the Pamunkey River near Philip William’s Ferry. Alexander believes Fontaine probably bought the plantation after his return from the Blue Ridge, though he could possibly have purchased it between his trip to the Merherrin River and the Spotswood expedition.
He was back in Williamsburg by 8 December 1716 when he learned that his brother Peter had arrived in Virginia. He went to meet him there on the 12th, and they went to the plantation at King William County to inspect it.
Rev. Peter Fontaine
Rev. Peter Fontaine (1691-1759) had come to Virginia in search of a pastorship. He had married Elizabeth Fourreau in 1714 in Dublin. Her father, Capt. Boulay, died the next year leaving Peter £1000 — a considerable sum of money.
Peter received his B.A. from Trinity College and was licensed to preach in Virginia on 12 March 1715. He came to Virginia with his wife in October 1715.
He received a presentation to Weyanoke Parish in Charles City County. He also ministered at Martin’s Brandon, Wallingford and Jamestown. In 1720 he became the minister at Westover Parish in Charles City County, seat of the Byrd family.
In October of 1717, his brother James Fontaine (1686 – 1746) landed at York Town. Though Fontaine was not feeling well, they went to the plantation in King William County.
Fontaine writes “the houses I built not being quite finished we lodged at Mr. Suttons.” By November 7th of that year all of the houses at the King William plantation were finished and “we brought all our things and came to live there.”
James Fontaine did not leave County Cork with the rest of the family after the French privateers had destroyed the fortified home in 1708. He was a Justice of the Peace there in 1714. He married Lucretia Desjarrie in Cork.
When he came to Virginia he brought his wife, their oldest daughter Elizabeth, and his mother-in-law with him. By first wife he had three children. Around 1737, he married Elizabeth Harcum by whom he had six more children.
He lived for a time on the plantation in King William County. He later moved to Northumberland County where he died in 1746.
Matthew Maury & Mary Ann Fontaine
On 27 March 1718 (n.s.) John Fontaine received a letter from his brother-in-law Matthew Maury, husband of his sister Mary Ann, whom he had married in Dublin in 1716.
The letter said he was staying at Capt. Eskridge’s in Westmoreland County, and would wait for him there.
Though very ill, John travelled to Eskridge’s home, only to find that Matthew had left. He then went to Williamsburg where he found Maury on 22 April 1718.
There they bought rum and molasses and hired a flat and went to the plantation in King William.
This was Maury’s first visit to Virginia, and he came alone. He returned to Dublin for his wife and son James, and returned to Virginia to settle on a portion of John Fontaine’s old plantation, which he named “Hickory Hill.”
He served as both a justice and sheriff of that County where he died in 1752.
The Parson’s Cause, 1763
Of the above son, James Maury (1718-1769), a very interesting historical aside is in order here.
He became an Anglican minister in Louisa County and was the plaintiff in the famous case of The Parson’s Cause in 1763.
Maury sued Louisa County and the Colony of Virginia for cash, the difference in the value of the 16,000 pounds of tobacco for his salary compared to the cash at the rate of two cents per pound he had actually been paid.
He filed the suit in Hanover County obtaining a change of venue from his home county of Louisa.
The suit arose over the complicated legal measures related to the payment of parsons at the legal rate of 16,000 pounds of tobacco annually which was changed by the Virginia House of Burgesses to allow Virginians to pay the clergy at an equivalent monetary rate of 2 cents a pound even though the market value of tobacco had risen to six cents a pound after some bad crops.
The Virginia Assembly had passed the temporary “two penny” act and a political tug-of-war between the clergy and the Colonial government in Williamsburg ensued. The clergy were outraged and claimed that the Assembly had no right to enforce any law without Royal approval, which had not been received before the Act was implemented.
The Assembly argued it was only a temporary measure designed to alleviate the effects of a devastatingly poor year in tobacco production. The battle was really a test of colonial prerogative versus the power of the throne in England.
The clergy had a strong legal argument and Maury won the trial on the issue of liability. Louisa County would have to pay Maury more money.
The ever important question remained: How much more money? Maury was then granted a trial to determine the damages owed to him. Patrick Henry defended Louisa County in the damages phase of the trial.
Henry unleased a scathing attack on the clergy before a sympathetic jury, whom Maury later called “the vulgar herd.”
Patrick Henry mercilessly rebuked the clergy’s efforts to get more money out of the people. The most famous Henry quote from the trial was this vitriolic tirade against the clergy:
Do they feed the hungry and clothe the naked? Oh, no, gentlemen! These rapacious harpies would, were their power equal to their will, snatch from the hearth of their honest parishioner his last hoe-cake, from the widow and her orphan children her last milch cow! the last bed–nay, the last blanket-from the lying-in woman!
Instead of the damages Maury should have received, the jury awarded him just one penny.
Patrick Herny was carried on the shoulders of the victorious defendants like a sports hero would be today. This celebrated suit launched Mr. Henry on to his political career as he entered the House of Burgesses in 1765 as a representative of Louisa County.
Only a short time thereafter, Patrick Henry issued his famous Tax Act Resolves which spread the fire of rebellion throughout the colonies.
Thus, John Fontaine has a connection with both Germanna and Patrick Henry and significant events in American history.
A good discussion of the intricacies of this suit and its ramifications can be found at:
Rev. Francis Fontaine
Though he arrived in Virginia after John Fontaine had returned to England, he should not be omitted here. He was the last of the four Fontaine siblings who emigrated to Virginia. (John having returned to England. Siblings Moses and Elizabeth never left Great Britain.)
Like his brothers Peter and Moses, Francis Fontaine (1697-1749) was a graduate of Trinity College. His first wife was Mary Glannison whom he married in London in 1720.
He had four children by her, all but the oldest born in Virginia. His second wife was Susannah Brush, by whom two children.
He came to Virginia with his family in 1721, where he became minister of Yorkhampton Parish in York County and also taught Hebrew at the College of William and Mary from 1729 to 1731. He died in 1749.
Life Back in England
By 1718, John Fontaine had finished his work in Virginia. On July 17th of that year he “made over the deeds of the land to my brother James, in order to go for England.”
That is his last journal entry in Virginia.
The next journal entry is dated 19 December 1718 in London, where he spent several months selling goods from ships that had been consigned to him (one by his friend Andrew Freneau, a fellow Huguenot and one of the wealthiest merchants in New York, with whom he had visited while in that city.)
From London, he returned to Dublin and stayed with his father for a year. By the next December (1720) he was back in London with his brother Francis. Francis was preparing to depart for Virginia, while John studied watch and clock making under his cousin Peter Forestier.
The next year, he set up a watch-making business in London with his brother Moses Fontaine (1694-1766.)
John’s mother died in Dublin in 1721, at which time his father closed his academy. The father remained in Dublin until his death in 1728, at which time the youngest of the Fontaine children, Elizabeth, came to live with her brother John.
In 1728, he married Mary Magdalen Sabatier, the daughter of John Sebatier, a well known and well-heeled silk weaver, which was Fontaine’s next occupation. They had nine children, all born in London, five of whom survived to adulthood.
His father-in-law died in 1745, leaving his daughter and John Fontaine well fixed. By 1748, he had moved to South Wales where he was simply listed as a “gentleman” and where he expanded his real estate holdings.
In Wales, he became active in Whig politics and was elected to newly created borough of Carmarthen as a burgess in 1764 as a “freeholder of Cwm Castle.”
Perhaps owing to the fact that the Fontaine children had all been born and raised in Great Britain, and English was the their native language, it is not altogether surprising to notice the rapidity with which they assimilated into British society.
Alexander notes as much when he writes:
The Fontaine family experience shows how rapidly the Huguenot element was assimilated into the British background, whether in Wales or Virginia.
Of the seven children of James and Anne Boursiquot Fontaine, Moses was unmarried, but the other six all took marriage partners of Huguenot descent.
When the three brothers in Virginia lost their first wives, they remarried, but none of the second wives had a Huguenot name.
In the next generation, of the children’s twenty spouses who can be identified, only three have Huguenot names.
This is an interesting parallel to the Germans in Virginia. While assimilation with the English was a slower process, there are several examples of German-Anglo marriages in the first and second generations. This would make an interesting study for a future article.
John Fontaine spent the remainder of his days in South Wales as a country gentleman.
His last known letter was to James Maury (the fated plaintiff in the Parson’s Cause) in 1764. In it, he congratulates him on the victory in the French and Indian War.
It is evident he never lost his Huguenot zeal and resentment against the Catholic church when he wrote his especial thanks for the “delivery from popery and idolatry.”
He also wrote in this same letter:
I received the Timothy grass you were so kind as to send me. I sowed some in my garden, and it grew well. I tried it in the field, and the grass killed it.
It would grow well in well cultivated lands if well weeded, and I think would produce a great crop; but I am too old and too feeble to undertake anything, and I am often confined with the gout.
John Fontaine and his wife Mary were the parents of one daughter and four sons.
The daughter, Ann, married her first cousin James Fontaine, son of James Fontaine. She died in childbirth with a son, John, who survived.
The fours sons remained in Great Britain and continued the Fontaine family line there.
John Fontaine died at New Church, Wales and was buried there on 26 November 1767, the last surviving child of his parents, aged 74.
While there is little to nothing new here for Fontaine and Maury researchers, except perhaps a better understanding of the First Germanna Colony, it is hoped that this article has been useful and informative to Germanna researchers.
For too long, John Fontaine has merely been a mysterious character who happened to keep a journal of the Blue Ridge expedition—a man who just pops in and out of the Germanna story with no further explanation.
We have never read about John Fontaine the man, why he was here, and what he did. Nor have we read about the other members of his family who were such an important part of Virginia history.
John Fontaine was a remarkable man for his time. Indeed, for any time. He probably had no notion of how important his journals would become to historians.
Thanks to the foresight of Ann Maury, and the incredible research of James Porter Alexander, his story is now available to all of us.
 Except for a statement by one of Spotswood’s grandsons, who was in no position to know the facts, who said they landed at Tappahannock, a most unlikely scenario.
 A search of the on-line LIbrary of Virginia catalog, Colonial Records Project did not result in any promising leads.
 He had also been offered 3,000 acres of land in Brunswick County by Governor Spotswood on their expedition to Fort Christanna, which he apparently declined. Alexander, 95-96.
 Alexander, 131-132.
 Alexander, 21.
 Alexander, 21-39, 130-131.
 Alexander 25-26, 138.
 Alexander, 27,139.
 The French and Indian War, 1754-1763 was the North American theater of the Seven Years War as it is called in Europe. The result of this war in North America was a major British success. France ceded Canada and all its possession East of the Mississippi River to Great Britain. To compensate its ally, Spain, for its loss of Florida, it ceded all of its possessions West of the Mississippi, including New Orleans, to Spain. Such was the surprise of Pierre Laclede when he set the French flag to found the city of of St. Louis in 1763, only to find it was now a Spanish territory. British victory became a very unexpected loss, however. To recover its costs for defending and prosecuting the war in North America, it embarked on a series of hugely unpopular taxes on the American colonies, the most famous of which was the hated Stamp Tax. Now that the Americans were free of fear from French and Indian incursions, they no longer felt the need for Royal protection. All of this fulminated in the American Revolution, and, as they say, the rest is history.
 Alexander, 29, 139.
 Alexander, 27, 29.
 Alexander, 29.
Alexander, Edward Porter. The Journal of John Fontaine, An Irish Huguenot Son In Spain and Virginia 1710—1719. Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1972.
Dodson, Leonidus. Alexander Spotswood, Governor of Colonial Virginia 1710—1722. 1932; reprint. New York: AMS Press, 1969.
Havighurst, Walter. Alexander Spotswood, Portrait Of A Governor. Williamsburg in America Series. Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, 1967.
Jones, Hugh. The Present State of Virginia. Ed. Richard L. Morton. Published for the Virginia Historical Society. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956.
McCarty, William and Kathleen Mulch. The McCarty’s of the Northern Neck. Baltimore: Gateway Press, 2005.
McIlwaine, H. R., editor. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia, Vol. III. 1928. Reprint. Richmond: The Virginia State Library, 1976.
Wayland, John. Germanna, Outpost of Adventure 1714—1956. 1957. Reprint. Germanna Record No. 7. Culpeper, VA: The Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Virginia, Inc., Germanna Record No. 7, 1989.
“War of the Spanish Succession.” The New Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th ed. Micropedia Vol. 11, p. 71. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1988.
“Treaty of Utrecht.” The New Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th ed. Micropedia Vol. 12, p. 221. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1988.
For the War of the Spanish Succession, see:
War of the Spanish Succesion
For the Treaty of Utrecht, see:
Treaty of Utrecht
Beyond Germanna, by John Blankenbaker
For Treaty of Albany, see:
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Electronic Text Center
Early Recognized Treaties with American Indian Nations
For Fontaine and Maury Families, see Fontaine Maury Society:
For The French & Indian War, see:
For The Parson’s Cause, see: