John Culpeper the Merchant1,2

Male, #8384, (circa 1606 - circa 1674)
Father*John Culpeper of Astwood in Feckenham, co. Worcs. (1565 - c 16 Dec 1635)
Mother*Ursula Woodcock (b 27 Jan 1566 - b 2 Jun 1612)
Name-AltSpell This surname is sometimes spelled Colepeper. 
Name-AltSpell This surname is sometimes spelled Culpepper. 
Name Variation He was also known as John Culpeper baptized at Harrietsham. 
Birth*circa 1606 John was born circa 1606. 
Baptism26 Oct 1606 He was baptized at Harrietsham, co. Kent, England, on 26 Oct 1606.  
Birthsay 1631  
Will14 Dec 1635 He is mentioned in the will of John Culpeper of Astwood in Feckenham, co. Worcs. on 14 Dec 1635.3 
Death of Fathercirca 16 Dec 1635 His father John Culpeper of Astwood in Feckenham, co. Worcs. died circa 16 Dec 1635 at Hollingbourne, co. Kent, England.3 
Research note He is referenced in a research note for Thomas Culpeper of Barbados.4 
Birthsay 1637  
Birth of Sonsay 1637 His son Dennis Culpeper of England and Virginia was born say 1637 at England
Birth of Sonsay 1639 His son James Culpeper of England and Virginia was born say 1639 at England
Birth of Sonsay 1641 His son Robert Culpeper of England and Virginia was born say 1641. 
Will30 Jan 1644 He is mentioned in the will of Sir Alexander Culpeper of Greenway Court, Knight on 30 Jan 1644.5,6 
Birth of Soncirca 1644 His son John Culpeper of Albemarle NC was born circa 1644.7 
Research note He is referenced in a research note for Peter Culpeper of Barbados.4 
Miscellaneous*1662/63 A Boston lawsuit—Ford and Gibbs v. Wood—centered on a trade dispute in 1662 and 1663 involving John Culpepper, who was described in court records as a merchant and part-owner of the ketch William. Traders John Ford and Robert Gibbs sued Captain Edward Wood of the William, for refusing to deliver their goods from the William to the barque Francis, and complaining that John Culpepper had "abused" Gibbs’ servant when he tried to take possession of the goods. Captain Wood’s defense was that he had received a letter from Boston in September 1662, purportedly from Ford and another man, instructing him to give the goods to "their friend" John Culpepper, who was traveling on the William, and then to follow Culpepper’s orders about the disposition of the goods. Wood also produced written instructions signed by Culpepper at Manhattan in May 1663, to sail from Manhattan to Boston and deliver the goods to a man named John Freake. Wood emphasized repeatedly that he was obliged to follow Culpepper’s orders "in all things." These court records did not indicate John Culpepper’s place of residence.8 
Death*circa 1674 He died at Virginia circa 1674.9 
Biography* John Culpeper, born in 1606, could be the ancestor of most American Culpeppers, but this is far from proven. Little is known about him for certain. Other than this John, and his brother Thomas Culpeper of the Middle Temple, there are no known Culpepers with ties to Virginia, old enough to have been the father of the first Henry Culpeper of Lower Norfolk Co., VA. From the research of Fairfax Harrison3, we know that although John was trained as a lawyer, he took up the career of a merchant instead, and that he was involved in trade between England and the American colonies. And so hereafter, I'll refer to him as John Culpeper the Merchant.

John the Merchant may have been the John Culpepper who served for a time as the sheriff of Northampton County, VA, and who died there in 1674. It at least seems likely that he was the John who appears in records in Isle of Wight and Northampton Counties beginning in the 1640's. So it might be logical to assume that he was the John Culpeper in records there in the 1670's as well.

Some, however, think that John the Merchant (born 1606) would have been too old to have served as Clerk of Court, and Sheriff of Northampton County in the early 1670's. By that time he would have been in his mid-60's. These researchers think it more likely that these later Northampton records refer to John Culpeper son of Thomas & Katherine, born 1633, who would have been almost 40 years old in the early 1670's. This John is also thought to have lived in Virginia. Like John the Merchant, few surviving records document his life.

There is no record that John, the sheriff of Northampton, left any descendants, as none are mentioned in his 1674 estate. Also, his one known land grant escheated (was returned by default) to the state of Virginia some 20 years after his death.

Those who think that John the Merchant was the one who died in 1674 offer various logical reasons why his land might have escheated back to Virginia, even though they think he did indeed leave descendants.

Others suggest that the 1674 estate was that of John Culpeper son of Thomas & Katherine, and that John the Merchant died somewhere else, perhaps even in Barbados or in England. Further research is needed to clarify these issues. It should be noted that early records in many southern Virginia counties have been lost. Had these records survived, they might have greatly expanded our knowledge of the various early John Culpepers in Virginia.

In addition to John Culpeper the Merchant, and John Culpeper the son of Thomas and Katherine, there was also a third contemporaneous John, John Culpeper of Albemarle NC, aka "the Rebel," probably born in the 1640's. This third John also seems to have been a merchant, and may possibly have been the son of John the Merchant.

It is difficult to sort out which of the various surviving records in early NC, Virginia, and New England, might pertain to each of these Johns, and no attempt will be made to do so, at this time, in this article.

Merchants in colonial America left few records which have survived until today, and our knowledge of John Culpeper the Merchant suffers as a result. But from what little we do know, it seems possible that John the Merchant and his sons may have worked as a agents, or "factors" in colonial trade. The following description of this sort of work is excerpted from Perry of London by Jacob M. Price, page 30:

     "There were hardly any towns in the seventeenth century Chesapeake except the ‘capitals' of Jamestown and St. Mary's City, and they were places of little commercial importance. Early trading ventures to the Chesapeake had often been entrusted to captains and supercargoes who could travel about and seek out business where settlers were to be found. The practice, however, was inefficient in its utilization of ship time and by mid-century had largely yielded to the factor system. The English merchant desiring to trade to the Chesapeake would either by himself or as part of an ad hoc syndicate or ‘adventure' send out an agent, usually known as a factor, who would sell goods and buy tobacco on the account of his principals, the metropolitan merchants, and receive in return a salary or a commission of ten percent (five percent for selling the trading goods and five percent for buying tobacco). The factor normally rented a room from a planter at a place convenient for keeping his goods; most of his time, however, was spent traveling about, meeting planters, arranging sales and purchases, and related details. He might be at his "store" as seldom as one day a week. Most of the factors appear to have remained in the colony only a few months... or at most a few years. But some settled permanently. As members of this last group accumulated capital of their own, they became the peddlers, country traders and even merchants of the colony...."

John Culpeper the Merchant's work may have taken him to Barbados, Virginia, Maryland, New England, and perhaps elsewhere. Much research remains to be done in order to construct a more accurate and complete picture of John's life and activities.

The following account of John Culpeper, the Merchant is taken from The Proprietors of the Northern Neck, Chapters of Culpeper Genealogy by Fairfax Harrison3:

     "He was baptised in Harrietsham, October 26, 1606, as ‘Johannes, filius Johannis Culpeper, arm;' and on May 7, 1621, was admitted 'specially' to the Middle Temple as ‘Mr. John, second son of John Culpeper of Astwood, Worc. esq.' (Hopwood, ii, 662). He did not pursue the law, but before 1633 had embarked in the Virginia trade, being recorded that year as part owner, with his elder brother, of a new ship, the Thomas and John, which was equipped with ordnance from the public stores in order to voyage to Virginia (Cal. State Papers, Dom., 1633-34, p. 223, and Hotten, Original Lists, p. 83). He was named in his father's will (1635) as 'my son John C;' on his father's MI. in Hollingbourne as 'Johannem' the third child; and in the will of Sir Alexander as 'my nephew John C. her (i. e., Cicely's) brother.'

     "His legacy under his father's will was a 'rent charge of £30, payable by Sir John [afterwards first Lord] Culpeper during my said son John's life.' When, in 1651, the Commonwealth was hearing claims upon the forfeited estate of Lord Culpeper, a John C. appeared and, describing himself as a merchant who had been 'beyond seas' during the Troubles, asserted his title to this rent charge, claiming that since 1645 he had received only £75 (Cal. Com. Compounding, 1643-60. v, 3277). That this was John there can be no doubt."

There is some evidence that this or some John was the father of Henry Culpepper, of Norfolk County, VA. Henry Culpepper appears in records of Lancaster County, VA prior to his arrival in Norfolk County, and a John Culpepper can be placed in Lancaster County about the same time. However, neither John nor Henry Colepeper or Culpeper appear in early Lancaster County, VA tithable records, indicating that they were not being taxed as landowners in Lancaster County, even though Henry was described as a "planter":

     Lancaster Co VA Deeds & Wills 1654-1661, Page 173 -- The P:sents Winesseth that I HENRY COLEPEPPER, Planter, in ye County of Lancaster in Virginia doe assigne unto JOHN EDWARDS, Surgeon, in ye same County his heirs or assignes one Cow Cale being brown ye right ear a peice taken out behind & a nick in ye forepart of ye sd ear ye left ear cropt & underkeeled with a nick in ye forepart thereof & do warrant ye sd Calfe from any p:son whatsoever unto him ye sd EDWARDS or his assignes forever, as Witnes my hand this 7th
day of December 1658. Witnes LEONARD CACOTT, HEN: COLEPEPPER p sig, THO: WILLIAMSON p sig (Edwards then assigns his interest in the heifer to Leonard Cacott.)

     Lancaster Co VA Deeds & Wills 1661-1702, Page 374 -- WHEREAS there was a meeting by the Parishoners of Lancaster Parish & the Parishoners of PIEANKITANCK for to the final ordering of all difference betwixt lhe 2 Pshes: oncerning the bounds of the sd Pshes: and it was then mutually agreed for the time to come that the bounds of thc Pshers: should be & extend according to an Order of the County Court bearing date the 10th day of Sept 1657, Provided the levys due from the LADY LUNSFORDs plantacon & other plantacons for the time past be paid to the use of the sd Lancastr: Psh: & this Agreemt. not to make invallid any Order of Court for the recovery of the sd Levys. In witnes whereof I HENRY CORBYN on behalfe of the Psh of Lancastr: set to my hand & seale this l4th of Sept: 1659 This Agreemt. to take place from this day JOHN COLEPEPER, HEN: CORBYN, JOHN RYNES, CUTH: POTTER. Recognit In Cur 9d Maii 1660 et record xxd p EDWD. DALE, Cl Cur

The area of discussion at the above meeting is the part of Lancaster County across the Rappahannock River in what is now Middlesex County. Middlesex County was originally part of Lancaster County. The Pianketank River divides present Middlesex County from Mathews County. Middlesex County has excellent records, including the Christ Church Parish records, which should be checked.

Also, a John and Henry were traveling on the same ship in 1664:

     The Complete Book of Emigrants 1661-1699, by Peter Wilson Coldham, page 64, the year 1664: "10 May - 30 June. Shippers by the Defence, Mr. John Webber, bound from London for New England: Benjamin Hewling, John Newell, Humphrey Hodges, Thomas Parris, James Fassett, John Fullerton, Sir William Peake, Robert Davies, Robert Knight, John Winder, HENRY CULPEPPER, JOHN CULPEPPER. (PRO: E190/50/1,50/2)


From Bill Rusell4, May 2000, comes the following useful summary of John Culpeper, the Merchant:

First, John was clearly a ship owner with business interests throughtout the colonies. He had been away from England for some time when he returned to protect his brothers estate in 1651. Their interests were probably more entangled than just their common ownership of the 'Thomas and John'. It would appear that they may have owned a trading company with points of presence in England, Barbados, New England, and Virginia. Indeed, John probably had sons or sons-in-law in those places to carry out their trading business. I suspect that Hannah who married Edward Frisbie and Susannah who married Francis Lindley were both daughters. Edward Frisbie was from another prominent merchant trading family in Norfolk County, VA and removed to New England. Francis Lindley ended up in New Jersey after having lived in New England. I also believe the John Culpeper "the Carolina Rebel" was a son of John the merchant.

Second, John the Merchant was also John the lawyer, a fact we sometimes overlook and which may go some ways to unraveling some of the confusion over the various Johns. John the merchant was at the Middle Temple as was his brother Thomas. More importantly, he was there at the same time as Gov. Sir William Berkeley. I believe that it was John the merchant who represented the legal interests of Frances Culpeper Stephens Berkeley before the courts in North Carolina and who attested to Berkeley's signature on the deed to Roanoke Island in New England. Who better to entrust to such a job than the Governor's wife's uncle, a lawyer who ownd a ship able to travle to North Carolina and New England on short notice and who personally knew the Governor. He makes a more logical candidate for the job than the relative young "Carolina Rebel" who had no legal training and may not have even reached North Carolina by the time in question.

Third, John the merchant had known trading interests and presence in New England and Barbados. Charleston, SC was settled originally by groups from both places and it is possible the John the Rebel was his father's representative in those areas. Culpeper's Rebellion in North Carolina - really Albemarle -, was fomented by New England merchant traders. If John the merchant handled the sale of Roanoke Island for Governor Berkeley, it is clear that the Lamb family who purchased it were friends of Sarah Mayo, John the Rebel's wife. From the records it would appear that John the Rebel arrived in Albemarle after the John Culpeper who was in court in the sale of the property, yet the later buyers were well familiar with John the Rebel's family. The Lamb family who bought Roanoke Island were also New England
merchant traders who mainained a family presence in the Albemarle region of North Carolina.

The above is partly theory based upon available records. I believe that John the merchant was the father of Hannah and Susannah of New England, Henry of Virginia, and John the Rebel. He may also have been the father of some of the Barbados Culpepers.


It is impossible to connect Henry Culpepper of Lower Norfolk with John the Merchant through DNA evidence, since John's other plausible sons left no male descendants. And in particular, Henry Culpepper's DNA does not match the DNA of other known descendants of the Wigsell Culpepper branch of the family, such as the Culpepers of Barbados, or the Culpepers of India.10
Biography He is referenced in a biographical note for Thomas Culpeper of the Middle Temple.11 
Biography He is referenced in a biographical note for John Culpeper of Albemarle NC
Biography He is referenced in a biographical note for Henry Culpeper of Lower Norfolk Co., VA.9,10 
Research note He is referenced in a research note for John Culpeper of Accomack Co., VA.4 
Research note18 Aug 2011 He is referenced in a research note for Susanna Culpeper of Connecticut


ChartsThe 12th century Culpepers of England: Descendant Chart (16 generations, Males only)
Last Edited16 Jul 2015


  1. Col. F.W.T. Attree R.E./F.S.A. & Rev. J.H.L. Booker M.A., "The Sussex Colepepers, Part I", Sussex Archaeological Collections, XLVII,47-81, (1904)
  2. E-mail written Mar 2006 to Warren Culpepper and Lew Griffin from Bob Ford, e-mail address.

    About 14 years ago, I found 35 records of a 1662-1663 lawsuit at the MA State Archives and made copies. The copies were enlarged to the extent that I had to paste the pages together. Now they are too large to copy. Also I lost the citation....
    The lawsuit involved John Ford, Robert Gibbs and John Freke (Frake), all of Boston, and Captain Edward Wood of the ship (a ketch named William.) One of the records was signed by John Culpepper in VA. I am unable to make out every word, but two of three documents containing his name are below. Notice that Culpepper sailed from Boston to VA in the first one that says:

    Order Capt Edward Wood
    ___ you having all your passengers with the necessareys aboard the Ketch William our desire is you would take first opportunity of wind and weather sayling for James River in Virginia where you are to attend the orders of our friend Mr. John Culpeper who goeth with you in the Katch delivering him what good of ours is in the Katch and likewise what freight is there due to the Katch conforming your self to his order as to the dispatch of our voyage home for New England and for all things ___ (possible "made") ___ (possible "before") you to him and desire you if possible to ___ send you to your ___ port and to return in ___ is the desire of your loving friend. (Signed) John Fford and John Ffreke

    The second says:
    Manafords(?) 10th May 1663
    Order Capt. Edward Wood
    ___ you are hereby desired to take the first opportunity of wind and weather to sail from this Port of ____ to the port of Boston in New England where you are to deliver what good are aboard the ketch William ___ ___ ___(possible "what") freight shall ___ there ___ to the Ketch in Mr. John ffrieke march to who ___ they are ___ and consigned and for ___ thins ___ you to him onley ___ to your descression and judgment for touching along the coast to ___ freight according to Mr. Fords letter to you to ___ in his ___ ___ send you to your desired port in Scfty(?) (Signed) John Culpeper.
  3. Fairfax Harrison, The Proprietors of the Northern Neck - Chapters of Culpepper Genealogy, Richmond, VA: The Old Dominion Press (Privately printed), 1926, Repository: LDS Family History Library - Salt Lake City, Call No. US/CAN Film #929429. Transcription available online at:
  4. E-mail written 1999-2011 to Culpepper Connections from William A. 'Bill' Russell, Alexandria, VA, e-mail address (Sep 2011).
  5. Fairfax Harrison, The Proprietors of the Northern Neck - Chapters of Culpepper Genealogy, Richmond, VA: The Old Dominion Press (Privately printed), 1926, Repository: LDS Family History Library - Salt Lake City, Call No. US/CAN Film #929429. Transcription available online at:
    P. C. C. Rivers, 157.
  6. Public Records Office, National Archives, London.
    Image of will at: /archives/uk/wills/images/Alexander_of_Greenway_Court_1645-1.pdf.
  7. William S. Smith, Culpeper's Rebellion, New Data & Old Problems, Culpeper's Rebellion, Master's Thesis, 1990,
    p. 19.
  8. Diane Rapaport--Historical/Genealogical Consultant, Lexington, MA, e-mail address,
  9. Warren L. Culpepper (#1942), Former publisher of Culpepper Connections, e-mail address.
  10. Lewis W. Griffin Jr. (#47), e-mail address.
  11. Fairfax Harrison, The Proprietors of the Northern Neck - Chapters of Culpepper Genealogy, Richmond, VA: The Old Dominion Press (Privately printed), 1926, Repository: LDS Family History Library - Salt Lake City, Call No. US/CAN Film #929429. Transcription available online at:
    Chapter 4: XIII Thomas Culpepper.