John Culpeper of Accomack Co., VA

Male, #62121, (between 1609 and 1623 - circa 1646)
Name-AltSpell This surname is sometimes spelled Colepeper. 
Name-AltSpell This surname is sometimes spelled Culpepper. 
Birth*between 1609 and 1623 He was born between 1609 and 1623 at England. His ancestry is uncertain. 
Research note* It is likely that John Culpeper baptized at Harbledown and John Culpeper of Accomack Co., VA are the same person.1 
Immigration*1635 In 1635, John Culpeper entered Accomack at Nassawodox, now in Northampton County. He began working for Captain Thomas Graves (see above), who paid for his transportation.2 
Court Records*5 Jan 1636 "Anthony Willis petitioned at this Court agst. John Culpeper servant to Mrs. Graves (her husband, Capt. Thomas Graves, had died the prior month of December 1635), for killing of two hoggs of said Willis which upon examination, and the depositions of John Hinman and Robert Pestoll it is ordered that Mrs. Graves shall pay unto said Willis, one sow of one yeere and half old present payment for default thereof, and the said Culpeper to be whipt presently and have thirty lashes. Upon the examination of said Culpeper at the tyme of his punishment whether he had any confederate with him, he confessed that John Green a lone man did come to him as he was at the oven about his bread, and there enticed him to kill a sow and bring it to his house privately where they two would eat it together, and further that the said Green told him that if he could conveniently and private-ly he would kill one himself and further that the said Green had often enticed him to steal pumpkins from his mistress of which he confessed he stole four at several tymes…”.3 
Headrights*23 Nov 1640 On 23 Nov 1640, Henry Pedenden claims a headright for the transport of John Culpeper:
"Whereas Henry Pedenden hath made it appeare unto this courte that their is the full and compleate somme and quantety of Five Hundred and Fiftie acres of land properlie due and of right belonging unto him the said Henry Pedenden for the transportation of theise severall persons whose names are hereunder notated. It is therefore thought fitt and so Ordered by this Court that a Certificate be accordingly graunted unto the said Henry whereby the same may be certified to the right worshipfull the Governor and Counsell att James Citty for his obteyninge a Patent for enjoying the same: John Hinchley and Marye his wife, Capt. Thomas Graves, Mr. Francis Geofford, William Deacon, Christopher Bryant, Mr. Robert Chamlett, James Standish, Marie Foxley, John Culpeper, Henry Pedenden, Christopher Brian, Richard Caynoe, James Harding, John Price, Nicholas Croockneck."4 
Note*1642 Accomac Shire was established in 1634 as one of the original eight shires of Virginia. The shire's name comes from the Native American word Accawmack, meaning "on the other side". In 1642 the name was changed to Northampton by the English, to eliminate "heathen" names in the New World.5 
Court Records28 Jul 1645 On 28 Jul 1645, John gave a deposition that he had a contract to "sawe and maule" some timber:
     "Att A County Court houlden at Northampton the 28th day of July Anno 1645. Present Capt. Nathaniell Littleton, Argoll Yardley, Esquires, Mr. Obedience Robins, Capt. William Roper, Capt. Phillip Taylor, Mr. Stephen Charlton, Mr. Edward Douglas, Mr. Edmond Scarburgh. The deposition of John Culpepper taken in open Court: This deponent saith That in April Anno 1643, Anthony Hodgkins made an agreement with Sir Edmond Plowden to make a partition in the store at Kecoughtan, And the said Hodgkins made an agreement with this depondent to sawe and maule the Tymber for the said partition for the use of the said Sir Edmond Plowden, and further saith that soe soone as the said Tymber was fallen it Rayned soe bitterly for sixe or seven dayes that the oxen could not be yoaked to gett the said Tymber home by reason whereof the said worke could not bee finished with as much expedition as the said Hodgkins did desire And further not. - John Culpepper."6 
Court Records10 Feb 1646 On 10 Feb 1646, in Northampton County, a libel suit was filed against John:
     "At a court held for the county of Northampton. Feby 10th 1646. Present: Argoll Yardley, Esqr, Capt Wm Stone. Mr. Stephen Charlton and Mr. Thos Johnson. This petition was presented to the Court: To the Worshipful Commander and Commissioners for Northampton County, on behalf of himself and Anna Smyth his daughter in law. In all humble manner, showeth unto you, good worships that Richard Buckland and John Culpepper hath in a most scandalous and opprobrious manner scandalized and defamed your petitioner and daughter in law by writing several libels against them wherein they cast an aspersion upon her good name which is never to be regained. And further the said Buckland and Culpepper brought unto your petitioner's house the said libel, at an unseasonable time of night. .. Your petitioner humbly craveth a redress on behalf of his said daughter for the said asparison mentioned in the said libel …”

The libelous poem is replete with sexual innuendoes and accusations that the petitioner's daughter had many lovers. In the poem, which follows, "chirurgeon" is an old English word for surgeon, and a "pipkin" is an earthenware cooking pot and a metaphorical reference to the daughter:

Young men give awhile to me
     And I to you will tell
A matter which is rare and strange
     Which here of late befell.
And mark how things will come to pass
     And you shall understand
Like accident nere happened here
     Till now within this land.
I am a chirurgeon here indeed
     Until You all it be known
To them who of my help hath need
     My best skill is shown,
But how a pipkin got a crack
     And through some disaster
But I to make it whole again
     To have it layed in plaster
Tis said it did receive a wound
     By a wild savage boar
But I do hope to make it should
     If it were ten times more
This wound is not mortal
     It is but a scare
The boar did strike it with his tusk
     But did not enter far.
There's many that have tried their wit
     To make this pipkin sound
But I although I came by fitte
     Their skill will all confound.
The Constable when he came there
     He dare not once it seize
Because his warrant are not sealed
     Except it be with £lead
The Carpenter came to make a cure
     Whereby me, to disgrace
But it sayeth it could not him endure
     He had a withered face.
But I did think of all that came
     This cure he would have done
Because that he could build a frame
     To keep it from the sun.
The Smithy, he boldly did then enter
     And he began so hot.
But it was so pure a temper
     It could not endure the heat,
But I do think, if he had skill
     Of it to make a cure
Though few hath so singed him
     This fit will not endure.
He that looked like the man in the moon
     And well came nigh a saddle
Before that he this cure had done
     His brains would turn to addle.
I think he be some Irishman
     That runneth on a bog.
Therefore his best way to swamp,
     And there to look for hogs.
The Taylor that same gentleman
     That was so neat and nimble
Most resolutely his work begun
     With his needle and his thimble
Though he like before it threw
     He cast his Spanish pike
It would not set it. it come it need
     It did him much dislike.
The Cooper with his hoops so round
     And his long yellow hair.
I think his skill to make it sound
     With mine cannot compare
Unless he hath some water got
     From the CastuIian fountain
He better now go home to walk
     And keep goats on the mountain.
The Shoemaker so straight and strong
     Thinking to make a cure
Because he wanted use of tongue
     With him he brought a friend
It called him foolish ass
     To come to gain so rare a thing
And could not speak himself.
     The Planter with his ruff and stuff
In my mind was a fool
     To undertake so great a cure
And never was at school
     But swore he hath some Sexton been
And loves to ring a knell
     Therefore I think tis best for him
For to go and toll the bell.
     The Innkeeper that same gallant
Who hath a fluent tongue
     Did boldly undertake the cure
But he did prove too young
When he spoke it said to him
     Good Sir. if you are able
Go home to your accustomed place
     And wait upon the table.
So gentlemen. farewell to all,
     Till I again you see
If any of your pipkins fall
     Pray send them unto me
And I so well and speedily
     The same again will cure
And they shall do you service good
     And of long time endure.

However, in a trial that followed the hearing, John was never mentioned. Perhaps John was already deceased at the time of his trial, and that could explain why there was no mention of him in it. But it would seem just as likely that John settled with the plaintiffs prior to the trial or that the judge dismissed John after the hearing.
     “The court ordered that whereas Richard Buckland scandalously defamed Ann Smyth, it is therefore thought fit, and accordingly ordered for writing and dropping of a libel by the house of Jno Hinman being the habitation of said Ann Smyth the said Richard Buckland shall the next sermon that is preached at Nassawattccks, stand at the Church door from the beginning of the 1st lesson until the 2nd be ended with a paper upon his hat, and on it shall be written in capital letters Inimus Libellous, desiring forgiveness of God, and also in particular the aforesaid defamed, And it is further ordered all Court charges required on his part, and the Church Wardens to see this performed."7 
Death*circa 1646 He died at Northampton Co., Virginia, circa 1646
     John's prior death is implied in a notation in the 1647 inventory of Henry Pedenden's estate. Thus, he must have died after the hearing on 10 Feb 1646 but before the Pedenden inventory in 1647:
     "Two books belonging to the estate of John Culpepper decd, and now in the possession of Mary Peddenden Widow (friend and neighbor of Mrs. Graves), namely one Bible and Practice of Piety..."8 
Research note* What do we know of this John as a result of study of the above records?
1. In 1635/6 he was an indentured servant. Given the normal range of ages for male indentured servants based upon my looking at similar records in Virginia for twenty years, he most probably would have been between the ages of 12 and 25 ( c. 1609-1623, most likely c. 1616-1617).
2. In 1645 he was a free man engaged in the occupation of sawyer.
3. He died circa 1646.
4. The identity of his parents and any descendants are unknown.
5. His marital status is unknown.

A closer examination of original county records might indicate some other facts of interest in determining his identity:
1. He should have received 50 acres of land upon completion of his indenture (normally seven years) which might give of some idea of when he came to Virginia.
2. If he owned his own saw mill, he would have been required to have a license from the county court, giving us a date by which we would know that he was no longer a servant.
3. If he was married, any transfers of land ownership might include reference to a wife's dower interest and another outside date for free status.

Could John of Accomack have been identical with any of the other John Culpepers associated with Virginia in this era? He could not have been:
1. John Culpeper of Albemarle NC, whose North Carolina court deposition gives his age. An earliest possible dating of that document still leaves John of Albemarle born years after John of Accomack was brought into court for stealing "hoggs" and pumpkins.
2. John Culpeper son of Thomas & Katherine, whose generally accepted birth date (1633) would make him only 2 or 3 at the time of the pumpkin caper. Even 16th Century Virginia courts were unlikely to have ordered 30 lashes for three year olds. Additionally, the family is generally not placed in Virginia prior to 1649/50.
3. John Culpeper the Merchant, who was a trained lawyer and was engaged in shipping and merchant trade in the years John of Accomack shows up as an indentured servant and sawyer.
4. John Culpeper of Northampton, who was resident on the Eastern Shore of Virginia from 1671 to 1674, and is probably one and the same with #2 above. His death occurred nearly 30 years after the death ofJohn of Accomack.9 
Last Edited29 Mar 2011


  1. Warren L. Culpepper (#1942), Former publisher of Culpepper Connections, e-mail address.
  2. Beverley Fleet, Virginia Colonial Abstracts.
    Accomack Co., Vol I, page 25.
  3. Northampton County records, Book 1, page 66, dated 5 January 1636.
  4. Susie M. Ames, edit., County Court Records of Accomack-Northampton, Virginia; 1640-1645, The University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1973, p. 43.
  5. Wikipedia contributors. "Accomack County, Virginia." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Accessed 19 Feb 2011.
  6. Susie M. Ames, edit., County Court Records of Accomack-Northampton, Virginia; 1640-1645, The University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1973, p. 441.
  7. Elmer Thomas Crowson, Life as Revealed through Early American Court Records, Southern Historical Press, Easley, SC, 1981, pp 21-22.
  8. Northampton County Record Book 3, p 83; and William and Mary Quarterly Magazine XXI, 160).
  9. E-mail written 1999-2011 to Culpepper Connections from William A. 'Bill' Russell, Alexandria, VA, e-mail address (Sep 2011).