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Colonel Thomas Pettus of Virginia

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There is a free space page with a table of Pettus births, deaths, and marriages at https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Space:Pettus_BMDs_at_St_Simon_and_St_Jude&public=1

And here is a transcript of the will of Edward Pettus, brother of Thomas and Theodore: Space:Will_of_Edward_Pettus_1620

Capt. [later Col.] Thomas Pettus of Virginia, Governor’s Councillor

The following information relates to Col. Thomas Pettus of Virginia, Governor’s Councillor (also named in documents as “Capt. Pettus” and “Thomas Pettus, Esq.”) who served as a member of the Governor’s Council in Virginia from 1642-1661. There were at least two other men named Thomas Pettus in Virginia during this time. One was a younger man, called “Thomas, Jr.” in records, who arrived in Virginia in 1643, his passage paid by Capt. Thomas Pettus. The other is the son of the first Thomas, who was born after 1651. This page does not address the claims that a man named Thomas Pettus fathered children by a woman named “Ka okee” an undocumented daughter of Pocahontas.

Here are the documented facts about Thomas Pettus:

Member of the Virginia Governor’s Council 1641/2 –

Image from “Minutes of the Council and General court of colonial Virginia, 1622-1632, 1670-1676 with notes and excerpts from original Council and General court records, into 1683, now lost.” [1]

The original council documents are located at the Library of Virginia and in the records of the London Company. There are record losses from the early years, so there is a gap between 1633 and 1641. Excerpts from some early records exist, but Thomas Pettus is not named in them. The March 8, 1641/2 record is the first mention of “Thomas Pettus” in Virginia. The fact that Thomas was not sworn in on March 8 may suggest that he was already a member of the Council. He must have been an adult to have been a member of the council, making his birth year no later than 1620.

Married Elizabeth, widow of Richard Durant before April, 1643:

The only known wife of Thomas Pettus was Elizabeth, who was first married to Richard Durant, who died, second married to Col. Thomas Pettus. and after Thomas’ death, married third to Capt. John Grove. The dates of Durant’s death and the marriage of Elizabeth and Thomas are unknown. In April, 1643, Thomas Pettus claimed the land she had inherited from Durant so they must have married before that date. Elizabeth married John Grove(s) by 1669 after Thomas’ death. [2]

Thomas obtained land in Virginia, 1643, 1652, 1658:

Virginia Patent book 2 Capt. Thomas Petus, one of his Majesty’s Councill of State, 886 acs. James City CO., Apr. 7, 1643, Page 40. Neere Jockeys Neck, E. & N. upon the Secretary’s land, E.N.E. and N.N.E. upon land of Mr. Secretary Kemp, N.W. upon Mr. George Mallam, S.W. upon the Gleab land Cr., S. upon the Gleab land & S. E. upon a br. of Archers Hope Cr. 250 acs. due by intermarriage with the relict & Executrix of Richard Durant, Dec’d., who had a patent dated 24 Aug. 1635; & 350 Acs. by purchase of a patent to Alexander Stoner, & 286 Acs. for trans. of 6 pers. * 14 acs. still due upon the last person nominated.

Capt. Thomas Pettus, 450 acs., 1 Jan. 1643, p. 366. Due by order of court & fro trans. of 10 pers: John Fickling, Edwd. Wright, Tho. Sidley, Peter Talbott, Tho. Pettus, Junr., Geo. Codd, Tobias Cook, John Vaine, Cath. Barker. Incomplete.

NOTE: although obtaining a land patent often took years since a land grant first needed to be obtained, then a parcel of land identified, then a survey completed and recorded, and finally a patent issued, the first properties obtained by Thomas Pettus had already been patented by other men so there was no delay.

Patent Book 3 Col. Thomas Pettus, Esqr., one of the Councill of State, 1,000 acs. Northumberland Co., 10 Feb. 1652, p. 171. Nly. upon Potomeck Cr. & Ely. upon land of Sir Thomas Lunsford. Trans. of 20 pers. Mr. Henry Meese, 1000 acs. Stafford Co., 20 Oct. 1665, p. 432. S. side of Potomack Cr., beg on #. Side of a swamp abutting upon Potomack Cr. &c., Granted to Col. Thomas Pettus, Esqr., 15 Mar. 1658 & by him & Eliz. his Wife assigned to sd. Meese & ack’d. in court by Major Edward Girffeth, Atty. Of sd. Pettus & wife, as by records Of W’moreland Co. will more fully appear. [3]

Had a home named “Littletowne”:

Archaeologist and historian William Kelso who conducted the excavation of the Littletowne site wrote: “It was shortly before the middle of the seventeenth century when Colonel Thomas Pettus arrived on the Kingsmill scene. The Pettuses hailed from Norwich, in Norfolk, England; they were particularly well-off merchants in a vastly expanding mercantile nation. Thomas Pettus, twelfth son of William Pettus, was alternately reared in Norwich and at the family's country home nearby. A younger son without prospects of family inheritance, Thomas found Virginia an attractive alternative to life in England. By then the Indian problem had all but been settled in the Tidewater region, and a fairly steady tobacco market was assured. Whatever his reasons, Thomas Pettus was in Virginia by 1641, and not much later he settled at Kingsmill and acquired the Littletown tract. Pettus soon became a member of the emerging provincial elite. Records indicate that he served on the prestigious Governor's Council from 1641 until 1660. It is unclear how he gained his position in Virginia society so quickly, although he may have been entitled to some of the Kingsmill property through investments made by his uncle, Sir John Pettus, who had purchased two shares of stock in the original Virginia Company. Thomas acquired additional holdings at Kingsmill through marriage to a widow by the name of Elizabeth Durant. His holdings eventually grew to over 800 acres, with thousands to follow on the Northern Neck of Virginia between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. He had, in fact, acquired the small holdings of the first generation of Kingsmill tenants, and with Indian and Black slaves as the labor force, embarked upon an extensive planting program.” “Prosperous Littletown, however, lasted only half a century. Colonel Pettus died in 1669 and the land passed to his son Thomas. Ash layers uncovered in the manor house cellar indicate that the house burned in the 1690's and was not rebuilt. The same fate befell a nearby slave or servant quarter at about the same time. The male line of the family, as the records show, moved elsewhere; Pettus's widowed daughter-in-law married James Bray II, who was destined to perpetuate the privileged life at Kingsmill.” [4]

Father of Thomas Pettus, born after 1651;

In April, 1671 Capt. John Groves was ordered by the General Court to return the property of [Thomas] Pettus, orphan. The property had been placed in trust for Thomas by his mother. [5] NOTE: the term ‘orphan’ in a legal document at this time meant that a person’s father was dead and that the person was under 21 years of age. Thomas died about 1668: In 1669 a woman named Anne Munford commissioned an agent in Virginia to collect money owed her by Capt. Grove “and his wife Elizabeth, late the widow of Capt. Thomas Pettus” [6] In April, 1671 Capt. John Groves was ordered by the General Court to return the property of [Thomas] Pettus, orphan, as described in a deed of trust; Groves was dead by May, 1671 as subsequent records refer to him as deceased. Coll. Nathaniel Bacon is described as guardian to Thomas Pettus in Nov. 1671. [7]

Disputed origins:

That Thomas Pettus was from the area of Norwich, England, is proposed by descendant William Pettus. He found two Thomas Pettuses from Norwich in England who he proposes are likely candidates for the Virginia Thomas. However, there is no specific document which connects either of the two Thomas Pettuses in Virginia to a specific family in Norwich. Both connections are only theories based on the fact that neither Thomas seems to have married or died in England. There were a number of interrelated Pettus families living in Norwich in the 16th/17th century:

“1598 Thomas” One Thomas was born in 1598 to Thomas Pettus and Cecily King, baptized in 1599 at St. Simon and St. Jude Parish, Norwich. [8] ;

“1610 Thomas” The other Thomas was born about 1610, baptized at St. Peter Hungate, and was the son of William Pettus and Mary Gleane.

“Theodore Pettus” Another Pettus from Norwich, a “gentleman” named Theodore, arrived in Virginia in 1623. [9]The only other record of “Theodore” is a deposition he made in 1626. There is nothing to suggest that Theodore and Thomas were the same man. 1598 Thomas and 1610 Thomas were probably related, as uncle and nephew or cousins. Theodore was probably related to both Thomases and all seem to be related to Sir John Pettus (1550-1614). Mayor of Norwich and member of the Virginia Company. [10]

There is no documentation found to date which confirms Thomas-the-Councillor’s departure from England and arrival in Virginia, so no conclusive proof as to which Thomas is the Virginia man or when he actually arrived.

Based on the 1620 will of Edward Pettus, which names brothers Thomas and Theodore, and christening records, 1598 Thomas is the man who came to Virginia, arriving some time in the 1630’s. There are records in Norwich which show this Thomas selling his interest in his father’s estates in 1629. A document found in England which shows that a certain John Pettus appeared before the Mayor’s Court in Norwich in 1699 seeking to prove that “Capt. Thomas Pettus of Virga in America, dec’d” was his late uncle. To prove his case, John submitted two parish records and brought with him witnesses who knew his relationship to Capt. Pettus. The parish records were from the registers of St. Simon and St. Jude parish and St. Lawrence Parish in Norwich. [11]

Councilor Thomas Pettus received land in 1643 for the transportation of a third Thomas, “Thomas Jr.” There is speculation that Thomas Jr is the son of Councilor Thomas by a first wife in England, but there is no evidence to date of a marriage in England for either of the elder Thomases so it is more likely this was simply yet another relative named Thomas. It also seems unlikely that one man would have two living sons both named Thomas.

Arrival in America:

Thomas’ arrival in America is undocumented. The only records for the name “Pettus” or similar prior to 1641 are: Theodore Pettus, mentioned in two records, 1623 and 1626:

“Theodore Pettus of Norwich, gent” arrived in Jamestown on September 12, 1623 on the Bonny Bess and took the oath of supremacy.

November 6, 1626 testified in a court case. [12]

Mr. Pettys. mentioned in a land patent as an abutter, 1635. NOTE: this land was several miles downriver from Jamestown, near Elizabeth City. Patent Book 1, Part 1 Augustine Warner, one neck of ground called by the name of Pynie Neck conteyning by estimation 250 acs., lying at the new Poquoson, W. into the woods, E. upon the bay, S. upon Samuell Bennetts plantation & N. upon Mr. Pettys land. Trans of 5 pers.* 12 Oct. 1635, p. 298. Renewed and 200 acres added.

Step. Pettis, mentioned in a land patent as someone transported to Virginia, 1637: Mathew Edloe, son & heir to Matthew Edloe, late of Va., dec’d., 1200 acs. upon the N. side of James Riv. Over against the Upper Chippokes Cr., S. W. upon the maine river and N.E. into the woods towards Dancing oin. 12 July 1637, p. 435. Due in right of 24 Servts. Trans. at the costs of his father: Math. Edloe, Hugh Tyder, Wm. Deane, Edwd.Tompson, Wm. Cox, Eliz. Jax (Note: maybe “Ux” for wife?), Griff. Roberrs. Fr. Roberts, Jon. Licheston, Peter Homes, Eans Kemp, Jon. Buxton, Tho. Crosby, Rand. Heyward, Hen. Croft, Tho. Morris, Tho. Rogers, Step. Pettis, Chri. Jones, Wm. Marsten (or Marshen), Jon. Bethone,Tho. Martin, Jon. Seaton, Geo. Pricklove. [13]

Who was the wife or wives of Thomas Pettus?

Only one woman, Elizabeth, “the the relict & Executrix of Richard Durant, Dec’d.,” is named as the wife of Thomas Pettus the councillor. [14]


  1. Virginia Council cn; Virginia General Court cn; McIlwaine, H. R. (Henry Read), 1864-1934 ed. cn; Virginia State Library cn, digitized on Internet Archive [1]
  2. “Tylers Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine” Vol. iii p. 180 , available on Internet Archive [2]
  3. Abstracts from Nugent, Nell, abstractor and indexer. “Cavaliers and Pioneers, Virginia Land Patents and Grants 1623-1666 ” Vol. 1, 1934, reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD. 1979; original documents at Library of Virgina, images at: Land records and grants: http://lva1.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/F/?func=file&file_name=find-b-clas30&local_base=CLAS30&_ga=2.249817602.522178043.1535330972-1063743895.1532796053
  4. Kelso, William M. “Rescue Archaeology on the James: Early Virginia Country Life.” Archaeology, vol. 32, no. 5, 1979, pp. 15–25. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41726373.
  5. General Court, 7 Apr 1671
  6. “Tylers Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine” Vol. iii p. 180 , available on Internet Archive [3]
  7. General Court, 25 Nov 1671
  8. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NRZJ-FQK : 11 February 2018, Thomas Pettus, 19 Feb 1598); citing , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 993,654
  9. See https://archive.org/stream/minutesofcouncil00virg#page/6/search/Pettus
  10. Records of the Virginia Company of London [4]
  11. See https://pettusheritage.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/misinformation-on-the-pettus-family/
  12. Minutes of the General Court
  13. “Cavaliers and Pioneers” Book 1, Part 1, pp. 59-60
  14. Abstracts from Nugent, Nell, abstractor and indexer. “Cavaliers and Pioneers, Virginia Land Patents and Grants 1623-1666 ” Vol. 1, 1934, reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD. 1979; original documents at Library of Virgina, images at: Land records and grants: http://lva1.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/F/?func=file&file_name=find-b-clas30&local_base=CLAS30&_ga=2.249817602.522178043.1535330972-1063743895.1532796053

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I tried to assemble all the facts I could substantiate in one place in hopes that they would be incorporated into the profile. I think his English origins have been sorted out since this was created.
posted by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
Hi Kathie. I stumbled upon this while looking for something else. It looks like it may be draft replacement text for a profile?
posted by Jillaine Smith