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Sunday, January 01, 2012


This Hancock History was written by Lisa at The Hancock Page.

The name Hancock is an English name, meaning "son of John". The first of my Hancock ancestors to come to America was William Hancock. He arrived in America in 1619. He had at least three children, Augustin, Simon, and William. He was a member of the Virginia Company, which was a group of businessmen who were granted a charter in June, 1606 by King James I. The purpose of the Virginia Company was to establish an English settlement in the Chesapeake area of North America. They planned to mine gold, cut timber, and undertake various other projects, which they believed would make them richer than they already were.  

The first group of settlers employed by The Virginia Company left England in December, 1606 bound for America. On May 13, 1607, these men settled on Jamestown Island, about 60 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. They built James' Fort, which was named for King James I. This area later became known as Jamestown. In the fall of 1608, a second supply of settlers were sent to James Fort. On this passenger list is the name Nicholas Hancock, a possible relative of William's. Nicholas' fate is unknown, as he is never mentioned again. This leads me to believe that he probably died soon after reaching America.

Almost from the moment they arrived, the settlers were under constant attack by the local Algonquian Indians. The chief of this tribe was Powhatan, the father of Pocahantas. Pocahantas became friends with Captain John Smith during this time, but a romance between the two was very unlikely, as she was only ten years old. Powhatan also became friends with Captain Smith, and this helped ease some of the tension between the Indians and settlers. Pocahantas was a frequent visitor to James Fort and the settlers became accustomed to seeing her frequently.

For unknown reasons, the tension between the Indians and settlers returned and Pocahantas visited the fort less often. Captain Smith returned to England in 1609, after being injured in a gunpowder explosion. Pocahantas was told he had been killed. In 1610, it is believed that Pocahantas married Kocoum, another Indian from her tribe. Kocoum's fate is unknown, but in 1613, Pocahantas moved to a new settlement, Henrico, and began her education in the Christian faith. She also met a successful tobacco planter named John Rolfe. Pocahantas was baptized and christened as "Rebecca", and on April 5, 1614, she married John Rolfe, with her father's blessings. As a result of this marriage, there was peace at last between the English settlers and the Indians.

In the spring of 1616, the couple, along with their young son, Thomas, decided to travel to England. Pocahantas drew a large crowd all over London with her dark skin and beauty. She met King James I, and the royal family loved her. She also saw her friend, Captain John Smith, who she still believed was dead. The family stayed in England for seven months before deciding to return to Virginia. In March, 1617 they set sail. It was soon apparent that Pocahantas would not survive the trip home, as she was deathly ill from pneumonia or possibly tuberculosis. She died before the ship left the English waters. She was 22 years old.

Upon returning to Virginia, Rolfe told Powhatan of Pocahantas' death. Powhatan was so grief-stricken that he turned over leadership of the tribe to his brother, Opechancanough, and left the tribe, going out into the wilderness. He was never seen again. Many people thought he went into the wilderness and grieved himself to death.

According to a record contained in an old Hancock family Bible, William left England in 1619, aboard the ship "Margaret of Bristol" bound for America. He was coming to America in search of lumber for his shipbuilding business. Leaving his family behind in England, William sailed out through the Bristol Channel on Thursday, September 16, 1619. The "Margaret" dropped anchor in Chesapeake Bay on November 30, 1619. Then on December 4, 1619, William stepped off the "Margaret" and onto American soil at a site on the north shore of the James River, about halfway between present-day Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia. The Berkeley Hundred Plantation was built at this location. It is still there today, but none of the original houses are still standing.

Berkeley Hundred Plantation is a huge plantation consisting of many homes. It resembled a small village. It was also the site for the first official Thanksgiving Day Service held in America, which William Hancock attended. Berkeley Hundred Plantation was the home of many of the first Governors of Virginia, and later home to many early American Presidents.

"Thorpe's House" at Berkeley Hundred Plantation was home to several of the English gentlemen who were associated with the Virginia Company. This is where William lived. It was owned by Captain George Thorpe. Captain Thorpe put much confidence in the Indians and wanted to convert them to a more civilized way of life. During the winter of 1621-1622, it seemed he was making progress. The Indians seemed more friendly and were frequent visitors to the plantation and other surrounding settlements. The settlers were convinced that their Indian troubles were over. Little did they know, it was all a trick.

In the early morning hours of March 22, 1621/22, which was Good Friday, groups of Indians drifted into the settlement of Berkeley Hundred. They were unarmed, but soon armed themselves with guns and knives that were easily accessible in most homes. They then attacked the settlers. William Hancock, along with about 300 others were massacred. It was said the settlers were so surprised, they never had a chance to defend themselves.

There was one Indian who had befriended a family in Jamestown. When he learned of the impending attack, he couldn't bear the thought of this family being killed. He warned this family of the attack, and he was credited with saving Jamestown. When the attackers arrived at Jamestown, they were met by armed settlers. The Indians returned to their tribe without incident.

The Indians were hoping this attack would be enough to cause the remaining settlers to return to their homeland, but that did not happen. The settlers had just made it through their roughest winter yet, and were determined not to leave. The attack did; however, cause the settlers to never trust the Indians again.

In 1630, William's oldest son and heir, Augustin, came to Virginia to claim his father's vast estate. Simon came to America in 1635 and settled in what is now Princess Anne County, Virginia. William came to America about 1638, and settled in Virginia.
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