David Muirhead, the great-grandson of James Muirhead of Lauchope and his second wife, Margaret Cunninghame, made a living as a merchant living in London in the early 1600s. David had been born in 1573 at Wigtown in Galloway to David Muirhead and his first wife, Grissell Machalls. David married Anne Hardrett and the couple took up residence in Edinburgh. As his career as a merchant blossomed, David purchased property in and moved his family to London. When David began his career as a merchant is not known. The earliest reference to his activities in that prefession comes from a legal document. On 28 November 1625, David received a warrant from the government to purchase “20,000 weight gunpowder in England and to tranƒport the ƒame into Scotland for defenƒe of the Kingdom.” (
The Isle of Kent, or rather, Kent Island, is part of the present-day state of Maryland. It is an island located in the Chesapeake Bay just to the south of the 39th degree north of latitude. It lies almost exactly due east of Washington, D.C. and Annapolis, Maryland. The island measures roughly five miles wide and fourteen and one-half miles long.
The earliest known human inhabitants on or in the vicinity of the Isle of Kent included the Matapeakes (a branch of the Ozinies tribe) from the region drained by the Chester River, the Monoponsons, who lived on the south end of the island itself, the Susquehannocks who made their settlements at the northern end of the Bay, and the Wicomese who inhabited the Eastern Shore region.
In the 1620s there existed no such thing as ‘Maryland’. The region in which the island lay fell under the jurisdiction of the colony of Virginia. The colony of Virginia was controlled by the London Company, which consisted of a group of merchants based in London, who had obtained a patent from the King to explore and settle the lands to the south of the 41st degree north of latitude. The initial settlement established by the London Company was in 1607 at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, which was named Jamestown in honor of King James I. The colony was placed under the direction of a governor who, essentially. worked for the London Company. The London Company was, in the end, a money-making venture, but it went through a number of years of internal discord and disruption, and began to lose, rather than make, money. In 1623 the London Company went into receivership and it was placed under the management of the Privy Council in July. On 24 May 1624 the charter of the London Company was revoked, and Virginia officially became a ‘royal’ colony. The governor of the colony, now became a ‘royal’ governor rather than a ‘company’ governor. George Yeardley, an able manager who had served as governor for the London Company between 1616-1617 and 1619-1621, was appointed by the King to become the royal governor of the Virginia Colony beginning on 14 March 1626; he would remain in the position until November of 1627.
On 31 January 1629, an entrepreneur named Captain William Claiborne obtained a commission from then Governor Yeardley to explore more of the region and attempt to establish a trading settlement. Claiborne was well acquainted with Virginia; he served as a surveyor for the Jamestown settlement in 1621. For his services, Claiborne was partially paid with two hundred acres of land on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The first site that Claiborne chose was Palmer’s Island, at the mouth of the Susquehanna, where it emptied into the Chesapeake Bay. It was located at the junction of portages from many beaver trapping regions. The island had been named for Edward Palmer an art collector and critic, who had become engaged by the London Company as an ‘adventurer’ to scout out new lands in America. Palmer died in 1624 before he could take up a grant on the island. Claiborne hoped to gain a virtual monopoly on the beaver trade in the region by possessing the island at the Susquehanna’s mouth, but the island was too small to support colonization. Claiborne looked elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay area in search of land to settle.
Claiborne chose the large island in the Chesapeake Bay that would later be named the Isle of Kent, and he also located some investors to finance the venture during one of his trips back to London. On 22 March 1628 William Claiborne was commissioned to act as the Secretary of State for the Jamestown Colony. In October of 1629, Sir George Calvert, the Lord Baltimore, arrived in Virginia, and the colonists at Jamestown began to fear that he would attempt to obtain a proprietary charter to take possession of the entire colony. The position that William Claiborne held, and the turn of events upon Lord Baltimore’s arrival worked to Claiborne’s advantage. He was dispatched to London to ascertain Baltimore’s true motives, and to frustrate them if possible. His attempts would all be in vain, though, and Lord Baltimore’s son, Caesilius Calvert (Sir George Calvert having in the meantime died) proceeded to establish the Province of Maryland out of the northern part of Virginia. (The charter to carve the proprietary colony of Maryland out of Virginia for the new Lord Baltimore was confirmed and published on 20 June 1632.)
While in England, Claiborne made contact with William Clobbery. This William Clobbery, of Clobbery and Co., had been familiar with the Chesapeake Bay through his association with Captain Fleet who was engaging in trading in the Bay. Claiborne convinced Clobbery to go into partnership with him, and additional investors were found.
The initial group of investors in the Isle of Kent venture, consisted of Claiborne, John de la Barre, Simon Sturgis, Maurice Thompson and William Clobery. The group applied to the King for a commission to proceed with the settlement. Clobery would hold two-sixths shares in the venture; the others each would hold one-sixth share in it. Clobery and Company received the commission on 16 May 1631.
The next step was to obtain the land from the natives. Claiborne set out in the ship, Africa, on 24 May 1631 with a group of prospective settlers, and landed on the island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. He purchased the island from the Indians residing there, and a settlement was established.
Over the next few years settlers and supplies were sent to the island in the Chesapeake Bay on the ships, Defense, James, Revenge, John And Barbara, and Sara And Elizabeth. The settlers consisted mainly of one hundred and five so called ‘men servants.’ The island was given the name of the Isle of Kent, in honor of Captain Claiborne’s home of Kent, England.
According to Erich Isaac in an article he wrote for the Maryland Historical Magazine,(4.4) by the first week of October 1631 the village
“consisted of one large timber-framed house and several thatch roofed huts set on crotches and raftered with a covering of brush. The whole was surrounded by palisades and four guns were strategically mounted.”
By the year 1638, the settlement would be noted as occupied by ‘120 men able to bear arms.’ (4.5)
A period of trouble began for the settlers of Kent Island on 27 February (certain sources claim it was 3 March) 1634 when the ships, Ark and Dove entered the Chesapeake Bay. They carried Leonard Calvert, the recently named Lieutenant Governor of the Maryland Province, who was Caesilius Calvert, Lord Baltimore’s brother along with some two hundred of an original three hundred and twenty passengers to settle the land in the name of Lord Baltimore. The settlers on Kent Island did not want to become part of the new Colony of Maryland. At the time it was said that Claiborne attempted to excite the local Indians to fight against the incoming Maryland settlers. Claiborne’s trading vessel, the Long Tayle, was taken captive on the Pautuxant River by armed Marylanders led by Captain Henry Fleet and Captain Humber. The Long Tayle’s captain, Captain Smith, and his crew were forced off the ship and marched to the recently established seat of government at St. Marys. A trial was held by Governor Calvert and some of the prisoners were kept at St. Marys, the others were allowed to return to their homes on Kent Island. In response, Claiborne sent Lieutenant Warren to St. Marys to demand Calvert to surrender up the Long Tayle. That demand being refused, Warren took a Maryland ship captive and returned to Kent Island.
The next, and apparently last, aggresive act committed against Claiborne and the Kent Island settlers by the Maryland Colony under Leonard Calvert was to send two ships, St. Helen and St. Margaret, to commence trade with the Indians at Pcomoke Sound, along the Eastern Shore. This violated Claiborne’s rights to trade in that region. Claiborne sent Lieutenant Warren in the shallop, Cocktrice, to expell the Marylanders from the Eastern Shore. Warren, with a crew of thirteen, engaged the St. Helen and St. Margaret, but the battle ended with the the death of Warren and the retreat of the Cocktrice. The incident would be the last to be recorded, and it might be assumed that there was relative peace between the Maryland Colony and Kent Island over the next four years.
At some time before October 1634 a change took place in the group of investors. According to a petition which the group submitted to the King at that time, William Clobery, John de la Barre and David Moorehead ‘ƒett to ƒea’ Captain William Claiborne, 'one of the Councell and Secretarie of Virginia’ for the purpose of settling ‘plantations’ and establishing trade with the indigenous people,
“which they have ever ƒince proƒecuted to their great coƒte and charge, in tranƒporting of cattle, building of houƒes, and ƒettling of people upon an Iƒland by them, named the Iƒland of Kent, being within the great Bay of the Cheƒpian, in Virginie... having brought the ƒaid trade and plantations to ƒome perfection, after much labor, coƒte and induƒtrie” (4.6)
The group, which, according to the petition, now included David Muirhead, asked the King to renew their commission and to protect their colony from the aggressive intentions of Lord Baltimore. The commission may have been renewed, but the English government had already granted to Sir George Calvert, and by extension to his son, Caesilius Calvert, Lord Baltimore the proprietory rights to the region. On 08 October 1634 the King ordered an investigation into the matter to be conducted; Lord Baltimore was ordered to avoid molesting the Kent Island settlers, ostensibly until the investigation could be completed. The King’s order stated:(4.7)
The King to the Governor and Council of Virginia.
George Evelin, a representative of the Clobery and Company, arrived at Kent Island in 1636. Evelin had purchased the share in the venture previously owned by John de la Barre. It is now believed that de la Barre’s share was actually obtained by Evelin by the intervention of Lord Baltimore. He bore a letter from the financial backers of the colony summoning William Claiborne back to England. Claiborne would not return to the settlement. Evelin’s trip to Kent Island was not merely to convey the letter to Claiborne.
Soon after his arrival, Evelin made a visit to Calvert at St. Marys. The main purpose of sending Evelin to the colony was for him to steer the Kent Island settlement into the embrace of the Maryland Colony. To that end, he was successful. Calvert commissioned Evelin as the ‘Governor of Kent Island.’
The King more and more leaned toward Calvert in regard to the rights to the Kent Island property and management. The collective property of Claiborne, Clobery and Muirhead on Kent Island was attached, or rather a lein was placed on it, on 02 January 1638, to ensure that those three appear at court in February to answer to charges of trespass leveled at them by Calvert.(4.8)
Order to Sheriff to attach property of Claiborne and partners.
The outcome of that action, and if David Muirhead, Clobery and Claiborne appeared in court is unknown. The next record to appear in the dockets of the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial was for the 14th of July 1638.
Infuriated by this turn of events against them, the Kent Island settlers elected Captain Thomas Smith and Claiborne’s brother-in-law, John Butler as their leaders. Using false rumours that Smith was attempting to incite the Susquehannok Indians to attack the Maryland settlers at St. Marys as a pretense, Calvert sent a body of twenty troops to take control of Kent Island. Bad weather forced that mission to be halted, but on 25 February 1638 a larger body of thirty men left St. Marys with Calvert himself at their head, and the traitor, George Evelin as part of the group. The party surprised the settlers on Kent Island in a pre-dawn raid. Smith and Butler were both taken prisoner; Captain Thomas Smith would be hanged under the charges of piracy without the benefit of councel or even a trial. The settlers of Kent Island protested the travesty, but their protests were answered by Calvert with another attack by his troops. This time, their possessions were plundered, many of their homes burned to the ground and a number of the men were hanged. This time there was no mistaking it; the Isle of Kent was being forced to accept the fact that it was part of the Maryland Colony.
On 14 July 1638, on behalf of the settlers of Kent Island, William Clobery submitted an appeal to the King requesting that Lord Baltimore and his underlings in the New World refrain from harassing the Kent Island settlers. According to John M. Morehead,(4.9)
“and David Morehead handed the King’s order to Lord Baltimore, in the presence of his associates, and demanded that the latter send orders by the fleet, then about to leave Gravesend for the Chesapeake, that persecution of the Isle of Kent settlers cease, pending adjudication.”
The response the group of investors received was the reply from Lord Baltimore that he would see the King first (and, apparently, then and only then respond to their demands). Lord Baltimore issued warrants against William Claiborne, William Clobery and David Muirhead, according to John M. Morehead, “as sole usurping partners...” (4.10) The term, usurping, refers to seizing control of, or taking over something. In regard to Claiborne, Clobery and Muirhead being ‘sole usurping partners’ it probably referred to their efforts to remove George Evelin from Clobery and Company. If he had indeed bought out John de la Barre’s share in the venture under the guidance and direction of Lord Baltimore, when the latter began to persecute the settlers of Kent Island, it seems only logical that the remaining original members of the venture would object and attempt to remove Evelin. John M. Morehead concluded the discussion of this court action by simply stating that Claiborne was convicted, "but nothing is said as to the two others." (4.11)
The partnership between David Muirhead and William Clobery and William Claiborne continued until David’s death in September 1642. It appears to have gone through some rough times because, in 1639, Claiborne took his partners to court, apparently making slanderous remarks about them, because they had to defend themselves on charges of libel. On 21 June 1639 David Muirhead defended his honor against Claiborne. Later, on 16 October 1645, the Admiralty Court in London ruled in favor of Claiborne, Clobery and Muirhead on a suit the company had filed to recover the loss of 40,000 pipestaves. The author of this volume did not have access to the archives known as the Calendar of State Papers – Colonial, so nothing more could be added here, but John M. Morehead, who apparently did have access to the archives, noted these various situations in which David Muirhead found himself. Mr. Morehead did not note the outcomes, but we might assume that they were favorable, because he did not quote any later records regarding the same cases.
When David Muirhead died in September 1642, a number of individuals were indebted to him to the amount of 48,504£-14ƒ-8d. The list of debtors included: the King and the Commissioners of H. M. Treasury of Scotland; Charles Alexander, son of William Earl of Stirling; George Douglas, D.D.; John Jowsie, a merchant burgess of Edinburgh; John Nisbett, son of William Nisbet, a minister at Tarboltoun; Alexander Brown, a younger merchant burgess of Edinburgh; Lillias Wood and her husband, John Foullar, a gentleman residing at Paris; John Earl of Mar; John Wilkie, the younger son of John Wilkie of Foulden; the elder John Wilkie; and Alexander Glan, a merchant in Rotterdam.(4.12)
There is no evidence to prove that David Muirhead ever traveled to the New World, but a man named Charles, who is believed by some to have been David's son, has been claimed to have emigrated from Scotland to the New World in the year 1630, becoming the patriarch of a number of Muirhead lines in America.
John M. Morehead, in his book, The Morehead Family Of North Carolina And Virginia, noted that:
“If, as family tradition asserts, the first Morehead to come to Virginia was Charles Muirhead in 1630, the probabilities are that he was a son of David, and settled at Kecoughtan (Keco-tan’), the seat of William Claiborne’s activities, and possibly as his merchant father’s representative…” (4.13)
The phrase “possibly as his merchant father’s representative” would apparently refer to the tradition that Charles was a son of David Muirhead's and had emigrated to the New World to look after his father’s investment interests at the Isle of Kent. The purpose of Charles’ emigration need not be questioned, but the date, not being backed up by any reference source, is probably incorrect by a few years. It was not until October of 1634 that David Muirhead became involved in the partnership with Claiborne and Clobery, and so, in 1630, there were no interests for which David’s son, Charles, would have to supervise and safeguard. That would only have been true after the year 1634 when David Muirhead became involved with Claiborne and Clobery. As will be seen later, there also exists no actual proof that Charles Muirhead was a son of David Muirhead; he might have been a nephew or cousin.