A Celebration of Women Writers

"Part II, Chapter 21." by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-)
From: This country of ours; the story of the United States by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-) New York, George H. Doran company, 1917.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


CHAPTER 21
THE STORY OF THE KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN HORSESHOE

BACON was driven into rebellion by evil government and tyranny. But the rising did little good. Bacon's Laws were done away with and Lord Culpeper, one of the two nobles to whom Charles II had given Virginia, came out as Governor. He soon showed himself a greedy tyrant, caring nothing for the happiness of his people, and bent only on making money for himself.

Lord Culpeper

Other governors followed him, many of them worthless, some never taking the trouble to come to Virginia at all. They stayed at home, accepting large sums of money, and letting other people do the work. But they were not all worthless and careless. Some were good, and one of the best was a Scotsman, Alexander Spotswood. He was a lieutenant governor. That is, the Governor in name was the Earl of Orkney, who was given the post as a reward for his great services as a soldier. But he never crossed the Atlantic to visit his noble province. Instead he sent others to rule for him. They were in fact the real governors, although they were called lieutenant governors.

Alexander Spotswood, Governor from 1710-22

Spotswood loved Virginia, and he did all he could to make the colony prosperous. He saw that the land was rich in minerals, and that much could be done with iron ore. So he built smelting furnaces, and altogether was so eager over it that he was called the Tubal Cain of Virginia. For Tubal Cain, you remember, "was an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron."

 

Spotswood also planted vines, and brought over a colony of Germans to teach the people how to grow them properly, and make wine. It was he, too, who first explored "the West."

 

Virginia up till now had lain between the sea and the blue range of mountains which cut it off from the land behind. To the English that was a land utterly unknown. All they knew was that the French were claiming it. But Governor Spotswood wanted to know more. So one August he gathered a company of friends, and set forth on an exploring expedition. With servants and Indian guides they made a party of about fifty or so, and a jolly company they were. They hunted by the way, and camped beneath the stars. There was no lack of food and drink, and it was more like a prolonged picnic than an exploring expedition.

The unknown West

The explorers reached the Blue Ridge, and, climbing to the top of a pass, looked down upon the beautiful wild valley beyond, through which wound a shining river. Spotswood called the river the Euphrates. But fortunately the name did not stick, and it is still called by its beautiful Indian name of Shenandoah.

 

Spotswood named the highest peak he saw Mount George in honour of the King, and his companions gave the next highest peak the name of Mount Alexander in honour of the Governor whose Christian name was Alexander. Then they went down into the valley below, and on the banks of the river they buried a bottle, inside which they had put a paper declaring that the whole valley belonged to George I, King by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, Ireland and Virginia.

 

After that the merry party turned homewards. They climbed to the top of the gap, took a last look at the fair valley of the unknown West, and then went down once more into the familiar plains of Virginia.

 

For this expedition all the horses were shod with iron, a thing very unusual in Virginia where there were no hard or stony roads. So as a remembrance of their pleasant time together Spotswood gave each of his companions a gold horseshoe set with precious stones for nails. Graven upon them were the Latin words, Sic juvat transcendere montes which mean, "Thus it is a pleasure to cross the mountains." Later all those who took part in the expedition were called Knights of the Golden Horseshoe.

 

Up to about this time the people in Virginia had been altogether English. Now a change came.

 

In France Louis XIV was persecuting the Protestants, or Huguenots, as they were called. He ordered them all to become Catholics or die, and he forbade them to leave the country. But thousands of them refused to give up their religion, and in spite of the King's commands they stole away from the country by secret ways. Many of them found a refuge in America.

Huguenots come to Virginia, 1700

In the north of Ireland, which had been settled chiefly by Scotsmen, the Presbyterians were being persecuted by the Church of England; at the same time the English Parliament was hampering their trade with unfair laws. So to escape from this double persecution many Scotch-Irish fled to America.

Irish come to Virginia

In Germany too the Protestants were being persecuted by the Catholic Princes. They too fled to America.

Germans come to Virginia

All these widely varying refugees found new homes in other colonies as well as in Virginia, as we shall presently hear. In Virginia it was chiefly to the Shenandoah Valley that they came, that valley which Spotswood and his knights of the Golden Horseshoe had seen and claimed for King George. The coming of these new people changed Virginia a good deal.

 

After the death of King Charles the coming of the Cavaliers had made Virginia Royalist and aristocratic, so now the coming of those persecuted Protestants and Presbyterians tended to make it democratic. That is, the coming of the Cavaliers increased the number of those who believed in the government of the many by the few. The coming of the European Protestants increased the number of those who believed in the government of the people by the people.

 

So in the House of Burgesses there were scenes of excitement. But these were no longer in Jamestown, for the capital had been removed to Williamsburg. Jamestown, you remember, had been burned by Bacon. Lord Culpeper however rebuilt it. But a few years later it was again burned down by accident. It had never been a healthy spot; no one seemed very anxious to build it again, so it was forsaken, and Williamsburg became and remained the capital for nearly a hundred years.

Williamsburg becomes the capital, 1705

To-day all that is left of Jamestown, the first home of Englishmen in America, is the ivy-grown ruin of the church.

 

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This book has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom