Saturday, March 14, 2009

Roanoke or Rappahanok?

Today I found a possible validation of the Virginia-origins of the Sartor family proposed by Juanita Sample Taylor. Let me recap the critical foundations of research found in a letter attributed to William Sartor b. 1759 in The Sartor Search. He (allegedly) states:

The Sartors came from Wales in 1687 to Roanoke, Va. My grandfather attended law school in (name illegible) and while there met my grandmother who, I am told was Miss Mary Gray. The Grays were very prominent people. My Mother died when I was an infant. I want the people who come after me to know this little that I have gathered. My Grandfather after marrying came to South Carolina and settled on the Broad River and turned his attention to farming. He was also in the war with the Indians. My Father, John Peter Sartor was born in 1733. He had one sister, Elizabeth.

I would dearly, dearly love to see this letter or at least a copy of the original. I am working clue by clue through this letter trying to find supporting documentation. Other posts will address other points of the letter in the future as I continue gathering evidence.

The first statement, that the Sartors came to Roanoke Virginia in 1687, is pretty much impossible. This was at least 50 years before that general area was inhabited by colonists, and even then it remained the western frontier of Virginia until the Revolutionary War, at which time our Sartors lived in Union District, South Carolina. Eventually this area became a busy frontier hub when the Great Wagon Road was constructed, but in 1687 it was nothing but trees, chiggers, and bears with the occassional Indian family.

The question then becomes "Did William mean Roanoke, North Carolina?" This too is pretty much impossible. Following the late 16th century failure of the lost colony, Roanoke Island was not settled for several hundred more years. The Mosely map of 1733 shows a tiny settlement on Hatteras Island south of Roanoke, but no settlement, port, or other signs of life on Roanoke.

So, what does this mean? And what did I find today? Still no evidence, but an interesting possibility. It is possible that the Sartor family arrived in Rappahanok, Virginia in 1687. I examined Nugent's Cavaliers and Pioneers, the authoritative source on early Virginia land. Volume II covers the 1687 timeperiod. Nugent painstakingly lists the names of passengers transported by those to whom land was granted under the headright system. (Headrights were a land reward to patrons and/or ship captains for transporting colonists to the new world in efforts to create larger settlements and a stronger labor force.)

Before going into more detail, let me establish one more thing. In the course of research I have seen the Sartor name also spelled Sarter, Sorter, Sortor, and Salter. The Salter surname is particularly of interest because John Peter Sartor III's Revolutionary War Pension file (filed by Sarah Hughes) gives both the Sartor and Salter spelling.

Therefore, I went through a list of possibilities in Cavaliers and Pioneers and came up with one very interesting entry. A George Salter was in the company of Phillip May and Thomas Potts of Gloucestershire. They were granted land in Rappaannock County in 1687. This excites me for five reasons:
1. It's the right year, and it's the only entry so far that was in the right year. (according to the letter cited above)
2. Gloucestershire, England, borders Monmouthshire, Wales.
3. Rappahannock County was in the same general area as what later became Fairfax County. If the Union District Sartors did indeed come from Fairfax County, as The Sartor Search suggests, this is an exciting geographic proximity.
4. It would be easy for William Sartor to write Rappahannock wrong, mis-remember it, or for Ms. Taylor (or whomever first transcribed the letter) to have mis-read it.
5. George is a family name handed down through many generations. Most often it is given as George Washington Sartor, believed to be in tribute to "the" George Washington. But what if it was a family name to begin with?

So, I still have no concrete evidence that this is true, but it is a stronger connection than I have found elsewhere and cannot be ignored.

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