John and Ann Cotton   

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John and Ann Cotton

John and Ann Cotton
Bacon's Rebellion
Robert Bruce Cotton and possible connection
Possible Ancestor Tree for John Cotton

Map of the Chesapeake Bay    

Conjecture on their connections and possible genealogy

Robert Bruce Cotton was once thought to be the ancestor of John Cotton of Queens Creek, York County, Virginia.  However, some now speculate that his father might be John or Henry Cotton,   London merchants and half-brothers of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton who purchased Broughton Hall in the county of Northampton, England.  

It is interesting that the letter written to C.H., now believed to be Christopher Harris at Yardly, in Northhamptonshire.  Another of our family mysteries is the maiden name of Anne Cotton.  Was it Harrison as many think?  Or was she the Anne Dunbar listed by Drummond as one of his headrights:
(Will of Christopher Harris and his mother Elizabeth:  Notice in the will of Elizabeth Harris that she lists daughters and names:

  • Elizabeth
  • Sarah
  • Ann
  • Thomasin
  • Sabilla

Could this be "our" Ann?

Will of Elizabeth Harris



In the Name of God Amen I Elizabeth Harris O f Yardley Gobeyon in the County of Northampton Widow being somewhat indisposed in Body but thanks be to God of a sound and disposing Mind and Memory Do therefore make and ordain this my last Will and Testament as follows First I humbly recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God in humble hope of acceptance thro’ the merits of my blessed Saviour Jesus Christ and my Body I comit to the Earth to be decently buried at the discretion of my Executor hereinafter named and my temporal Estates I dispose of as follows. Item I give and bequeath to my sons Leonard Henry and Arthur and my Daughters Elizabeth Sarah Ann Thomasin and Sibella the sum of five Pounds apiece to be paid to them within one year after my decease. Item I give and bequeath to my Grandson Thomas the Son of my late Son William deceased the sum of said Five Pounds to be paid to him at his age of twenty one years but if he dies before he attain that age then the said Legacy to be void I give to my said Daughter Sibella my bed bedstead beding with all the goods and Furniture that usually stand and benithe Room wherein I lye Also I give my said Daughter Sibella half my pewter my great kettle and brass pan Lastly all the rest residue and remainders of my Goods Chattels ----Real and personal Estate whatsoever I give devise and bequeath to my son Christopher Harris and to his Heirs and Assigns he and they there ----paying the aforesaid Legacies my just Debts and Funeral Expenses and I do make and constitute him my said son Christopher sole Executor of this my Will, hereby revoking all former Wills by me at any time before made in Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this fourth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and sixty nine


The mark of Elizabeth Harris
Signed sealed published and declared
By the Witnesses named testating Elizabeth
Harris as for and to be her last will and
Testament in the presence of us whoin her
Presence and at her request in the presence
Of each other subscribed our names as witnesses

The mark of Mary Brown
Saml Smith

On the 11th Day of December 1770 Christopher Harris the sole Executor named in the above and within written will was then at the Petition of Smith his Proctor sworn faithfull to fulfil the same and so forth

Before me
Robinson Lawford Surrogate


Michael Cotton posted this message:
I don't have information that would prove that Ann Dunbar and Ann Cotton were one in the same, but I do see it as a possibility. The names John Cotton
and Ann Dunbar first appear together in Drummond's 1661 headright application. Then in Nov. 1666, John Paine applied for a headright for 18 people and listed John Cotton and Ann Dunbar side by side. In 1667, John Weire and Robert Paine applied for headrights for 24 people. Many of the names are the same as in the two previously mentioned applications, but John Cotton's and Ann Dunbar's names are transposed as John Dunbar and Ann Cotton. None of the other names were switched around like this. That mistake might suggest that these two people were thought of as a pair.

I don't know if Ann Cotton's letter to Christopher Harris means anything or not. They were neighbors when Harris lived in Virginia and John Cotton is
listed a member of a jury in Dec. 1657 alongside Christopher and Richard Harris. It is possible that they simply met in Virginia and maintained
contact after Harris returned to England. On the other hand, people often moved together in large family groups so they may have been a connection. In 1677, John Cotton filed a lawsuit against two York Co. merchants named Philip Cooke and John Harris, but I don't know if John Harris is related to
Christopher and Richard. I have come across one Cotton connection in Northamptonshire where Christopher Harris lived. There is a record that John and Henry Cotton, London merchants and half-brothers of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, purchased Broughton Hall in the county of Northampton. Their sister, Frances, was married to Baron Edward Montagu of Boughton, Northamptonshire. Henry Cotton died young, but it would be interesting to see if John left any
family. He would be about the right age to be the father of John Cotton of York Co., VA.

There are a couple of other people that I would like to find out more about. One is William Evans. He is listed just after John Cotton and Ann Dunbar is the above mentioned headright applications, so it is likely that he came over on the same ship. John and Ann Cotton were both witnesses to his will
dated Nov. 1657. Another is Eleanor (Elison) (Comins) Wheeler, whose will John Cotton witnessed in 1660 and who left Cotton a gold seal ring in that will. I have no idea what the significance of this ring might be. Her second husband Francis Wheeler was either a London merchant or the son of a London merchant. None of this may lead anywhere, but you never know.

E Hyatt wrote: 

...concerning the will of Eleanor Wheeler. Before she married Francis Wheeler, she had been widowed by Nicholas Comins. She made bequests to several people, including two Hall cousins. (I would look for your C.H. among the Halls.) Elizabeth Hooper is her son, Nicholas' wife. Robert Harrison had married Elizabeth Comins, Eleanor's daughter and Amy was Amadea, their daughter. Why did she give a ring to John Cotton? He had been married to your A.C. (Anne Hutchison) for three years and had had a son, born there in Queen's Creek in 1658, John Bertie Cotton, Jr. (Maybe further investigation of the Cotton line is warranted.)

"The Cotten Family," Old Albemarle

The Cotten Family is another tribe that settled originally on Queen's Creek in York County, Virginia, then shifted to Isle of Wight and Nansemond and finally poured its descendants in the third and fourth generations into the nmaw of Old Albemarle in North Carolina.  

Rev. William Cotten, minster of Hungar's Parish in Accomac County, if not the ancestor was a close collateral relative to the Cottens who settled in York County.  But for the fact that Reverend Cotten's chronicler's wholly fail to refer to any children he had, save Verlinda Cotten, who married William Stone who became Governor of Maryland, we would say that John, Thomas, and William Cotten of York County, were his sons.  Reverend Cotten married Ann Graves, daughter of the ancient planter, Thomas Graves, who was without doubt the grandfather of Ralph Graves who married the daughter of Joseph Croshaw, of Queen's Creek in York.  Martin Palmer married the widow of Captain Benjamin Croshaw, and in 1660 Edward Palmer whose name appears often in the Isle of Wight Records, was a member of the Coroner's Jury in York County (D. and W. Book 8, p. 1) and in 1677 Martin Palmer served on the jury in York County in the case of John Cotton v. John Harris, et al. (Book 6, p. 26).  Joseph Croshaw was the adjoining neighbor of John, William, Phillip and Richard Thomas on Queen's Creek, the Eastern Shore in the immediate neighborhood of the Hungar's Parish Church, of which Rev. William Cotten was minister (Eugent p. 285).  As late as 1661, William Drumond, afterwards appointed by Sir William Berkeley the first Governor of Old Albemarle, N.C. used the headright of John Thomas and many prominent and wealthy notables, who are known never to have lived in Westmoreland County in taking up a patent to 4750 acres of land (Nugent pp. 403-4).   Then again on January 30, 1650, Captain Francis Wheeler had died, and his estate was appraised by Christopher Harris, Robert Harrison, John Stampe and John Cotten.  Christopher Harris was a wealthy planter, who eventually returned to England, where he died; Robert Harrison married Elizabeth Comins, daughter of Nicholas Comins, and was the ancestor of the Harrisons of South of the James who married into the Thomas Family, and Captain Francis Wheeler had married the widow of Nicholas Comins, John Stampe lived in York County at that time, but his brother or son, Thomas Stampe was the head of a prominent neighbor of William Boddie, the Jordans, Lawrences, Exums, and others, along Currituck in Nansemond and Isle of Wight County.  All of the appraisers and parties mentioned owned lands on Queens Creek with John Thomas, Nicholas Jernew, Joseph Croshaw, the Bennetts and Harrisons in York, and it follows that John Cotten was also of that neighborhood.  This compiler has no shadow of doubt but that the John Cotten who married Martha Godwin and left a will in Bertie County, N.C. in 1728 was a son, nephew or other close relative of this Queens Creek John Cotten."

Richard Exum and Thomas Godwin, in 1650 patented 550 acres of land in what is now (it is said) Exxex County, Virginia using the headrights of eleven persons, among them being Morgan Thomas, Richard Exum and William Cotten. (Nutent 197).  in 1664, Henry Corbin used the headright of Jacob Cotten.  There was a Jacob Cotten in North Carolina at the turn of the next century, possibly the same one.(Nugent 432).   John Prosser in 1665 used Joane Cotten (Nugent 528) and the mother of William Cotten was Joane.  David Williamson in 1666 used nearly everyone in Virginia as a headright in obtaining 6000 acres in Accomac, including Thomas Cotten and Peter Cotten, (Nugent p. 554).  Where these people listed by David Williamson settled nobody knows.  They were perhaps all over the country.  Many of the names are well known and familiar to research workers in Virginia history.  As late as 1682 Arthur Jordan used the headright of Thomas Cotten (Valentine 704).  Anthony Matthews in taking up a patent next to the lands of Edward Palmer (See York notes above) in Isle of  Wight County used the headright of a William Cotten (Looks like he just brought him across the James River, from York County.)  This Anthony Matthews was probably the father of Anthony Matthews who married Elizabeth Boddie, the daughter of our old friend, William Boddie, of Isle of Wight County.  (Nugent p. 444).  To me this William Cotten looks very much like the father of John and Thomas Cotten who died in Bertie County, North Carolina.  Their families were:  

  1. John Cotten (Will 1728) m. 1) Martha Godwin 2) Martha Jones 
    1.  John Cotten
    2.  William Cotten
    3.  Thomas m. Sarah Dew (Widow of William Bridgers) (d. 1753) 
        1. Charle
         2.  Robert
         3.  Mary
         4.  Martha Cotten m. John Scott
          5.  Patience  
          6.  Priscilla m. Richard Wills
          (Sarah Bridgers, a half sister of the above children, married 5.  James Cotten, son of John Cotten who died in 1728.  The other Bridgers Children were William, John and Joseph Bridgers.  John Dawson, Richard Wills, and John Scott witnessed above will.)
    4.  Samuel
    5.  James m. Sarah Bridgers
    6.  Arthur
    7.  Joseph
    8.  Alexander
    9.  Priscilla 
    10. Susannah
    11.  Mary Cotten m. Holland
    12.  Martha Cotten m. Francis Benton
    Sons in laws:
    John Spears
    Capt. John Thomas who married Anne Cotten, and his brother Richard Thomas is believed to have married Barsheba Wills, sister of Richard Wills who married Priscilla Cotten.

"The Planter Forebears,"  Harrisons of Skimino, p. 9, footnote 

"...To this copy are appended the receipts for their several portions given by the children of Richard Harrison to their mother Elizabeth, his executrix, who before 1670 had married again one David Dunbar, e.g.: "I, William Harrison, son to Richard Harrison, deceased, doe by these presents acknowledge to have received of my mother, Elizabeth Dunbar, formerly Harrison, all my parte in the Devision made of my father's estate according to his will, and do hereby aquit my mother, Executrix to my father, deceased, from all debts, dues and demands due to me by virtue of my father's will.  Witness my hand this 10th of March 1670.  William Harrison

Witness:  the mark of John Harrison, James Besouth

Cavaliers and Pioneers, Patent Book No. 6, p. 19:  MAJOR JNO. WEIRE 7 MR. ROBERT PAINE, 1185 acs., N. side of Rappa. Riv., nere Nanzaticon, beg. about half a mile from the river on the W. side of the Cr. nere a path, nere an Isle of sunken land on the mouth of a valley &c. 27 Sept. 1667, p. 64.  Trans. of 24 pers: Rich Harman, An Cotten, Jno. Dunbar, Henry Mayes, James White, Sm. Evans,Rich. Symmonds, Wm. Coppage, Stephen Sadler, Mary Perry, Eli. Day, Jno. Savage, Wm. Harte, Tho. Parsons, Mary Harte, Saml. Price, James House, Walter Haines, Ralph Holt, Jon. Wilkins, Tho. Footer, Wm. Davis, Sy Croft, Martin Hide.

RE this e-mail from the past!


This link shows a picture of the house in question which has ‘CH’ inscribed on the side.

   Best wishes
--- Original Message ---
From: "Sharman Ramsey" <>
Subject: [COTTON-L] Re: Yardley Gobion
>From: "David Wilcockson" <>
>To: <>
>Sent: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 6:16 AM
>Subject: Yardley Gobion I've just chanced on your website while searching   
on Yardley Gobion.  I notice you are wondering who C.H. of Yardley is. 
I live in Yardley Gobion and one of the houses nearby has the initials CH 
and the date 1667 on it.
My local history book shows that CH stands for Christopher Harris who was a
well-to-do yeoman. Perhaps this relates to the 
Harrisons  you are 
Hope this helps!
Best wishes 

 David Wilcockson
  Librios Ltd

21 Catherine Street

     Covent Garden
       WC2B 5JS