The latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are featuring Tim McGraw’s discovery of his family’s “rags-to-riches” story with ties to George Washington got me to pondering about our collective families and the role they played in shaping our nation. Several of the family lines that we are working on have deep roots – in fact they were present here even before America became a nation.
Brothers, Joseph Curbow (1755-1850) and William Curbow (1757-?), were both Revolutionary War soldiers who served on the North Carolina Line. According to William’s pension papers, the family home in North Carolina was burned to the ground by the British. William also spent the brutal winter of 1777-78 in Valley Forge with General George Washington. The family story that has been passed down is that both Joseph and William were present at the British surrender in Yorktown in 1781. Fact or fiction? I don’t know – but it is fascinating to contemplate, don’t you think?
Edward Grantham (1643-1704) is my son’s 9th great grandfather. He was known as Old Edward. He lived in Surry County, Virginia. The family home was known as Grantham Reeds and was located directly across the James River from Jamestown, which was founded on May 14, 1607, and is the first permanent English settlement in what is now America!
My husband’s gg-grandmother was Ellen Elizabeth West. The West family has a long and interesting history in America and in England. John West (1590-1659) was the colonial Governor of Virginia from 1635-1637. He was the fourth son of Thomas West, 2nd Baron De La Warr. Did you know that this is where our state “Delaware” got its name? John West’s plantation is the site of present day West Point, Virginia. One of the sons of Governor West was Lieutenant-Colonel John West. He was married to Unity Croshaw, a granddaughter of Raleigh Croshaw, one of the founders of Jamestown, Virginia. Time and legend have not been kind to Unity – it has been reported that she was a shrew, and that she divorced her husband for adultery when he left her to live with Cockacoeske – Queen of the Pamunkey - and purportedly a cousin to Pocahontas. Again – fact or fiction? I don’t know.
Meanwhile, out west, Bartolomé de Montoya, a Spanish Conquistador arrived in New Mexico on 24 Dec. 1600. The family came as part of the second Onaté expedition, whose colony consisted of 65 settlers. The Montoya family brought with them 25 servants, cattle and equipment needed to start a new life in Nuevo España. From the family of Bartolomé de Montoya the Montoya surname was firmly established in New Mexico – and virtually all Montoya families from New Mexico descend from him.
And yes, in case you are wondering – we have our fair share of lunatics – thieves – and drunkards in our family tree too. Trials, tribulation, tragedy and drama were often the norm – divorces, family feuds, unplanned pregnancies, “bar-room difficulties” and the like have been uncovered. Our Ham family can be tied to the outlaw Jesse James; and our Curbow family can be linked with the gunslinger John Wesley Hardin. It’s all good though……they’re family!