Chapter II

In the New World
Some Early Combs

It is probable that Combses settled in every one of the original Thirteen Colonies; we know that in at least three of these Colonies, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts, they came at an early date. By the outbreak of the Revolution they are found in all the Colonies. In fact, some of them came along with Sir Walter Raleigh, when he founded the short­lived colony on Roanoke Island, off North Carolina in 1585. Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake were Devonshire worthies, hailing from a section teeming with Combses; a brother of Sir Francis married a Combs. It seems certain that more Combses came to Virginia and Maryland than to any of the other Colonies; Colonial records bear this out. It also appears that the principal ports of embarkation in England were Bristol, Plymouth [Devonshire] and Southampton [Hampshire]. (1)

But members of the clan must have sailed from various English ports, at various times, from the early Colonization period down into the nineteenth century. It is possible that they inhabited almost every shire, or county in England, at one time or another. At any rate, Combses are known to have lived in such English shires as: Devon, Somerset, Hampshire ("Hants"), Derby, Dorset, Oxford, York, Gloucester, Norfolk, Worcester, Warwick, Suffolk, Sussex, Surrey, Buckingham, Middlesex, Hertford; and in London. Most of these names are reflected in the place­names, counties, etc., of Virginia.

I promised at the outset not to indulge in much hypothesis but I would lay a healthy wager that numerous, hardy, adventure­seeking members of the tribe of Combs accompanied Sir Francis Drake on his swashbuckling forays into the Spanish Main, and that they dealt many a sturdy blow with cutlass and cudgel when the Spanish Ar­


mada was destroyed. Many of the New England Combses carried on the traditions of the sea, and the naval records of the Revolution list a number of them as masters, bonders and owners of schooners and brigantines: Ebenezer, John, William, Josiah, and others.

A genealogical outfit in Washington, D.C., which calls itself a "research bureau", asserts that the first Combses came to the Colonies (Plymouth, Massachusetts) in 1630! Subsequent data, to follow soon, will demonstrate the falsity of this assertion. It is the Combs families of the South, and their descendants, that have become more or less prominent in State and National affairs, and not those of New England. The "research bureau" gives these southern families but scant attention.

A little volume of this size cannot include the names of all the first Combs settlers in the Colonies. We have seen that they began to come as early as 1585, and continued coming, up to the Revolution. My notes, compiled from records in England and in America, from court records, wills, deeds, land transfers, shipping lists, minutes of the London Company meetings, affidavits, and various additional records and documents reveal a large number of Colonial Combses in Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Such an abracadabra of names and families makes any attempt at grouping and relationship impossible, because: very few American families know anything about their ancestry beyond their first Colonial ancestors, and not many know it that far back; and, Colonial records are not by any means complete, vital statistics not having been recorded during that long period, for the most part. Besides, the destructive hand of time, including fires, wars, etc., has not dealt gently with the records.

As far as can be determined, the majority of Colonial Combses came from southern and southwestern England, chiefly from Devonshire, Cornwall and Somersetshire. Very few, if any, came from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. As in the case of ninety­nine and ninety­nine one hundredths of other Americans, there is no evidence that they descend from the English aristocracy or nobility ­ although certain members of the clan are prone to believe that they do, and essay, by divers schemes and stratagems, to demonstrate it. It is axiomatic that descendants of the aristocracy and the nobility usually know something about their ancestry and antecedents. To be sure, I do not presume to claim that none of the Combses in America descend


from the English aristocracy or nobility; but again, I insist that evidence of such descent is lacking. Rev. Hayden, in his Virginia Genealogies, says that Virginia blood is as good as any in England; that a number of scions of the English aristocracy, disinherited by the law of entail, came to Virginia.

At any rate, even at the risk of being thrown into the clink by all good "F.F.V.'s" [First Families of Virginia], I rise to opine that less than half a dozen Virginia families descend from English families of historic note. In his The Planters of Colonial Virginia, Professor [Thomas Jefferson] Wertenbaker, of Princeton University [Mercer Co, NJ], claims that there are only three; that an additional three families come from the minor gentry. Wertenbaker may be in error, but not much.

At this point another impression should undergo correction. As to population, the Cavalier element in Virginia has been over emphasized. In the first place, an English Cavalier in the mid­seventeenth century was not necessarily an aristocrat or nobleman; it was a name applied to the followers of Charles I, in the Civil War. The most humble foot­soldier in the armies of Charles was thus a "Cavalier". After the overthrow and execution of Charles, a number of Cavaliers did come to Virginia, especially between 1650­1670. Some of the following well known families were probably among them: The Masons, Madisons, Marshalls, Monroes, Harrisons, Washingtons, Lees, and others. And these, or some of them, were from the English gentry, or minor gentry. Of this class was Archdale Combs, of Old Rappahannock [Co, VA], who was sometimes styled "Gent".


The scant records of those early times show that seven or eight Combses came to Virginia between 1619­1635; or at least, that that many were living in the colony between those dates. A census of February 16, 1623, lists John and William Comes as living in the old plantation, or county of Eastern Shore ("Kingdom of Accomac"). From the "Muster of those that Live in ye Treasuror Plant. (Plantation)," we learn that one John Comes was living in said Plantation ("James Citty") in 1624­'25; also, that he came over in the "Marigold", in 1619, Abraham Combs, or Coombe is listed in 1621, in Elizabeth City Plantation. (He probably went up to Lancaster [Co, VA].) One William Comes was killed by the Indians in the Jamestown Planta­


tion, 1624. (James "Citty" and Jamestown are identical in the early records.) (2)

Austen Combes was at James City in 1624. Richard Combes is mentioned in an old land patent in Elizabeth City Plantation [VA], in 1635. In the records of the Virginia (formerly London) Company, Minutes of the Council and General Court, London [EN], January 20, 1625, page 215, reads an affidavit, in part: ". . . . . Capt. Natha. (Nathaniel) Basse Affirmeth upon his knowledge that John Coombes and John Ewyne cam over into this County in the good shipp caled Marigold Ano Domini 1620 the 20th of May and were delivered by Capt. Lane to Sir. George Yardley to the Company's use. . . . ." As is clearly seen, the affidavit was made at Jamestown. Basse lived at "Basse's Choice," on the west side of Pagan River Bay [VA]. Capt. Basse was a prominent citizen in those early years at Jamestown. In 1621 he and a few others patented a private plantation of three hundred acres near the mouth of Pagan River, in the present Isle Of Wight County [VA], and about twenty­five miles below Jamestown. In the vicinity is St. Luke's Church, the oldest protestant church in America. Just across the river is Elizabeth City County. Capt. Basse knew John Combs, and the fact that he lived in Isle of Wight strengthens the contention that John moved down that way, and later over into Elizabeth City; that the Isle of Wight John of 1672, 1679, and 1681 is a presumed son of Jamestown John, [sic.] (3)

Now, let's consider the John of 1619. That is the year in which Capt. Basse came to Virginia. The same year Basse transported a number of immigrants from England. It is quite likely that the John of 1619 was among them.

As far as we know there was no John of 1620. The London record of Basse's affidavit is merely a transcribed copy of the proceedings at Jamestown. The Minutes of the Council and General Court of Virginia, January "XXth", 1625, as preserved in Richmond [City, VA], read: "Capt. Natha: Basse affirmeth vpon his knowledge that John Coombes & John Ewyne cam over into this County in the good shipp caled the Marigolde Ano Domi (Domini) 1619 the 20th of May and were delivered by Capt. Lane To Sr. George Yardley to the Compenys vse." The scribe at Jamestown was a bit short on orthography and punctuation, but the date, 1619, is doubtless correct, since it jibes with the "muster" mentioned above.

At any rate, John of the affidavit is the one of particular concern, as I shall demonstrate soon, and he shall be our point of departure in


the New World. No kinship is in evidence among the Combses listed above; but relationship there may be, among at least two or three of them, since Richard and Abraham also appear among the Combses and Archdales of London, as well as such given­names as John and William. Austen appears among the Combses of Devonshire. Old Eastern Shore Plantation, or County [VA] is on the other side of Chesapeake Bay, and the John over there need not concern us. It is quite possible that Richard (Elizabeth City, 1635) moved to St. Mary's [Co, MD], or Charles County, Maryland; later I shall discuss the movement of families up that way. Richard Combs is of special interest to the Combses of northern Kentucky and of Nelson County [KY].


The following is submitted as one of the most remarkable genealogical coincidences on record.

1535, London: John Combe married Margaret, daughter of Thomas Archdale.

1587, December 11, London: John Comb (or Combes), Merchant, of London, married Margaret, daughter of Thomas Archdale, "citizen and draper," of London. John was born about 1568, died about 1640. Margaret was christened November 6, 1569. Thomas Archdale was the son of John Archdale, of Stafford Town [Staffordshire, EN]. Thomas' will is dated March 5, 1609, probated November 14, 1611. In the will he mentiones [sic.] a grandson, Archdale Combe, born in 1606, and who was a son of John, Merchant, of London.* (Authority for the christening of Margaret Archdale, 1569, and for her marriage to John Combs, 1587, is in the records of the parish of St. Antholins, London.)

* (From this point onward, and until 1752, dates will be given as they appear in the records. To translate them into the Gregorian or modern calendar now in use, simply add eleven to any given day of the month. In the original records the date of George Washington's birthis [sic.] is given as February 11, 1732; the year is sometimes listed as 1731/2, due to the "legal" year. In such cases the second figure is the correct one. In 1752 England and the Colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar. Here and there an early document or paper is marked "O.S.", Old Style, or "N.S.", New Style, or both).

1625­'30, Jamestown: John, son of John Combes, Merchant, of London, married Margaret (Archdale?), niece of Archdale Combe, of London.  (4)


There is no evidence to establish John of 1535 as father of John of 1587, but such relationship is possible. The late George D.A. Combes, of Rockville Centre [Nassau Co], New York, abstracted wills in and around London, down to 1660. He found that John of 1587 had at least two sons, John and Archdale, and that John came to Jamestown.

The parentage of merchant John has not been established beyond cavil. As the John of 1535 may come a little too early to be his father, there is another possibility, and one which is more convincing: Richard Combe, lord of Combe Manor, in Devonshire, who died April 7, 1619. We have seen that Combses and Combs place­names were more numerous in Devon than in any other county in England. This is a part of the Thomas Hardy country. The late Fred Coombs insisted on the Devonshire origin of John Combs, of Jamestown; but the Johns in the families of Devon and London confused him.

Richard Combe, of Devon, had, among other children, the following sons: Joseph, William, Austen, Richard and John. All of these names except Joseph show up in and near Jamestown among the early immigrants. All of them appear later on the Rappahannock. Fred Coombs thought that John came to Jamestown, also William, Austen, and Richard. But ­ John was granted armorial bearings in London, in 1603, and was living there at the time. He certainly did not come to Virginia. It is probable that he is identical with merchant John (1587), who must have been a prominent man to be styled "Merchant of London" in the records; and only one Combs, John, ever became an armiger in London as early as 1603. It was John Jr., that came to Jamestown, and among his brothers and cousins there was likely a William, an Austen, and a Richard, all in Virginia, Joseph reappears in the family in Virginia in the 1680's as we shall see. (5)

It may seem illogical to call the Archdale Combs who died around 1654 (below) a brother of merchant John; but it is possible that the Devonshire Combses had connections with the London Archdales prior to 1587, when John married Margaret Archdale, in London. If merchant John and armigerous John are identical, John may have lived in Devon several years before moving to London; in which case his first children would have been recorded in Devon. The baptismal records of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, London, show that Jamestown John's brother, Archdale, was baptized December 4, 1606. Said records record no additional brothers or sisters. The Archdale family of London was a prominent one, recording a pedigree at the Visitation of London, 1633­'34, with the following


arms: azure, a chevron ermine between three talbots passant or.

Further note on some Devon and Cornwall Combses: The parish register of Stoke­Climsland [Cornwall, EN] records the burial of one Richard Comb in 1547. Stoke­Climsland is a parish and Duchy­of­Cornwall manor in east Cornwall, south of Launceston [Cornwall], and near the Devon­Cornwall border. John, the armiger, of London, was probably of the family of this Richard, who could have been his grandfather. A few miles from Stoke­Climsland, and in Devonshire, is the parish of Bradstone. Here one John Coumb died November 16, 1604, and who, according to the inscription on his tombstone, was "six score years of age." Sir Francis Drake married a Devonshire Combs.

Now, back to that marriage of John of Jamestown. William Combs, was a fellow in Oriel College, Oxford University (1626) [Oxfordshire, EN], and who died in March, 1629, without issue. In his will he made his brothers John and Archdale his executors, leaving 1000 pounds to each of them. (The sum for each would amount to about $25,000.00 today). Archdale Combe died around 1654. In his will, written several years before his death, he mentions a niece, Margaret, married to John Comes. The late Fred Coombes, of Madison [Dane Co], Wisconsin, who claimed to be descended from Archdale Combe, of Old Rappahannock [Co, VA] (which is also my line), states that his grandmother (born in 1800) often told the story of how her ancestor, John Combs, came to Jamestown as an indentured servant; how he served the term of indenture (five years), and then sent back to England for Margaret, his sweetheart, paying for her passage with tobacco. I see no reason why the old lady should have fabricated this story out of whole cloth; it fits in well with the data at hand. The importance of John of the Basse affidavit, then, is obvious. A consideration of the three Johns and their three "Peggies" brings us to the New World, but before taking up the venture in the New World, it is necessary, as far as possible, to clarify certain Combs-Archdale-Palmer connections in the Old World. (6)

The following observations and data are not mere vagaries, fanciful meanderings, leading to genealogical obfuscation; they are strictly germane to the issue at hand. Referring to the New England Register (one of the 1889 numbers), Kendall points out that: Abraham Archdale (will 1631 [Oxfordshire, EN]) was an uncle of Margaret Combe (wife of John); that he had a nephew ("cousin"), Richard Archdale, of London; this Richard had a son, Thomas; that the names in the Combs group about the mouth of the James River come largely from the Archdale family 


apparently; in the [Leicestershire, EN] will of Barbara Palmer, 1650 (niece of Abraham Archdale), mention is made of "Cousin John Combe's wife". This is the same Barbara that married William Palmer, Esq., of London [EN]. She had a son, Archdale Palmer, Esq.

As to the Palmer connection, it begins at least as early as the will of old John Combe, of Stratford­on­Avon [Warwickshire, EN]; a will made in 1612, proved November 10, 1615. John bequeaths to "Mrs. Palmer, wife of John Palmer, Esq., forty shillings to buy her a ring." John Palmer was one of the "overseers" of the will. The will of William Palmer, Esq., of London (1635), mentions three sons: Archdale, William and John. His wife, Barbara (mentioned above), was the daughter of Thomas Archdale, as I pointed out earlier. Incidentally, Matthew Archdale, of London, in a will proved December 31, 1599, leaves 50 pounds to his cousin, "Mrs. Combs."

From all this, one may assume that old John Combe, of "Oldstretford" [Old Stratford, Warwickshire, EN], was related to our London family, to the brothers Archdale, John and William; to what extent, it is difficult to determine. John Palmer's wife, Barbara, whom old John Combe mentions in his will, was probably a Combe, or an Archdale. For the sake of the record, John Combe's brothers were George, and John. It may now appear as no mere assumption that John, William, Richard and Abraham, of Jamestown and Elizabeth City Counties [VA] were related.