Third in a series of biographical sketches on members of the House of Burgesses whose descendants belong to the First Mississippi Company in honor of the 400th anniversary of the July 30, 1619, meeting of the first representative governmental body in American at the 1617 Church on Jamestown Island.
John Armistead was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses. Who was this man?
John Armistead’s parents, William and Anne, emigrated to VA about 1635 from Yorkshire, England, and settled in Elizabeth City County. It is possible that John Armistead was born in VA about this time. John’s father was prosperous in VA and may have sent his son to Gloucester County in the 1650s to manage his properties there when English settlers moved into that area. The destruction of Gloucester County Records has made it impossible to determine the exact dates of John’s birth and death (c. 1635-aft. 1698)
John served as a vestryman of Kingston Parish and was a member of the county court and a colonel in the militia by 1670. He became the sheriff in 1676 and 1680 and opposed tobacco cutting riots caused by planters who wanted to raise the price of tobacco by reducing its supply. In 1682 John arrested women who were destroying tobacco plants, putting him at odds with Robert Beverley. Some researchers say that Armistead married Beverley’s sister-in-law, Judith Hone. Others say Judith’s surname was Robinson because Christopher Robinson calls Colonel Armistead my loving (brother) and refers to his loving sister, “Mrs. Judith Armistead” in his will written 27 Jan 1692/3.
Armistead also served in the VA House of Burgesses in 1680 and sat at the first meeting of the General Assembly in 1680-1682. His role in suppressing the plant cutters may explain his absence at the
second session, but he returned to the House as a Burgess in 1685.
Armistead supported English polices designed to control Virginia after Bacon’s Rebellion. Governor Francis Howard knew Armistead’s sympathies with English rule and grew close to Armistead when the governor resided at times with Armistead’s son-in-law, Ralph Wormeley. This friendship probably led to Governor Francis Howard’s appointment of Armistead to the governor’s Council in 1688. In 1691 Armistead lost his seat on the governor’s council when he refused to swear allegiance “thro Scruple of Conscience” to King William and Queen Mary, who came to the English throne after the Glorious Revolution. On 9 Dec 1698 the Crown ordered that Armistead’s seat on the council restored, but he never took the oath and assumed his seat, possibly because he had died or retired from political life by then.
John and Judith Armistead had the following children: (1) Judith, who married Robert “King” Carter, one of the wealthiest planters in VA; (2) Elizabeth, who married Ralph Wormeley; (3) William, who married Anna Lee; and (4) Henry, who married Martha Burwell.
First Mississippi Company Descendants of John Armistead: Ann Atkinson Simmons, Grace Atkinson Buchanan, Vaughan Simmons Koga, Eliza Simmons Zimmerman
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