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First Recorded History of the James Family by Isabella Batchelder James

From “Memorial of Thomas Potts, Junior Who Settled in Pennsylvania With An Historic-Genealogical Account of His Descendants To The Eight Generation,” Privately Printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1874, Chapter Entitled, “Fourth Generation, No. 59, Henrietta Potts,” Page 251.

     Below follows the first documented history of the James family following the arrival of David James (c1660-1739) and Margaret Jane Mortimer of Llandegley and Glascwm parishes in Radnorshire, Wales who arrived in Philadelphia on October 28, 1682 with William Penn and settled 100 acres of land situated in what today is known as Radnor Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania at the location known as “Garret Hill.”  Isabella Batchelder James (1810-1901) was the wife of Dr. Thomas Potts James (1803-1882), the great, great grandson of David James (c1660-1739).  Isabelle was the first family historian to chronicle the oral family history that had been past down to her father in law, the Reverend, Dr. Isaac James (1777-1874).  Her recording of the James family’s oral history was supported by documents still in the family’s possession including deeds to land in Radnor Township, marriage records and the Certificate of Removal of David James and Margaret Mortimer from the Radnor Men’s Monthly (Quaker) Meeting back in Radnorshire, Wales.  Her recitation of he the family’s history was also augmented by her own independent research including Joseph Besse’s work, “Suffering of the People Known as Quakers.”

     In her recitation of the family’s history, Isabella mistakenly attributes the birth of her husband’s grandfather Evan James (c1715-c1794) as taking place at sea during the family’s two month voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on board the sailing ship “Bristol Factor” captained by Roger Drew, one of the multiple vessels chartered by William Penn to ferry the Welsh Quakers across the Atlantic Ocean.  Evan James was actually born in Radnor Township, then Chester County, Pennsylvania circa 1715.  Evan’s mistakenly attributed birth at sea was confused with the birth of “Seaborn Oliver,” the son of Evan Oliver with who the James family traveled on board the Bristol Factor.  Evan Oliver was a merchant and fellow Quaker who permitted David James and Margaret Jane Mortimer to travel with his family under the authorization of his certificate of travel, a document the James family did not possess at the time of their departure from Wales.  Thus, Seaborn Oliver, the son of Evan Oliver was confused with Evan James.

     Isabella also erroneously attributed certain events and circumstances of the religious persecution of David James, the son of James ap David of Llandegley and uncle of the David James who came to America in 1682 with the nephew himself.  Isabella was told by her father-in-law that the family had endured severe religious persecution in Wales in the late 17th Century following the Restoration of King Charles II because of their membership in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and because of their unwillingness to sign an oath of allegiance to the Church of England.  Isabella then drew detailed accounts of this persecution from Joseph Besse’s 1753 book entitled, “A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers, for the Testimony of a Good Conscience From the Time of Their Being First Distinguished by That Name in the Year 1650 to the Time of the Act Commonly Called the Act of Toleration Granted to Protestant Dissenters in the First Year of the Reign of King William the Third and Queen Mary in the Year 1689" chronicling the persecution and imprisonment of the James family in Wales in 1663 because of their membership in the Religious Society of Friends without realizing that the accounts referred to the uncle of her husband’s great, great grandfather.  Nevertheless, Isabella did capture and record the history of the family’s religious persecution in Wales prior to the departure of the nephew David James in 1682 with his wife Margaret Jane Mortimer and daughter Mary.

     The third, albeit minor, error in Isabella’s account is the month of David James’ arrival in Pennsylvania.  As it is recorded, David arrived on the “8th month of the year 1682.”  However, in 1682 the “8th” month of the year was “October.”  By 1874, the year in which Isabella chronicled the James family’s early history in North America, the calendar in use had long since changed and the “8th” month was no longer “October,” rather, it had become “August.”  Isabella noted that David and Margaret had arrived on the “8th” month and attributed that date to August pursuant to the calendar in use at the time she wrote her narrative.

     The final error in Isabella’s account is the belief that David and Margaret sailed in the same vessel as William Penn himself.  This idea was derived from the fact that the sailing ship upon which William Penn sailed, the “Welcome” and the sailing ship upon which David and Margaret sailed, the “Bristol Factor” arrived at the Swedish Colony of “Upland,” later to be renamed by Penn, “Philadelphia” on the same day (October 28, 1682) having convoyed together across the Atlantic Ocean with one other sailing ship called, the “Unicorn.”  The balance of the James family oral history recorded by Isabella comes from first hand testimony of percipient witnesses handed down four generations and is supported by the family records in her possession at the time.
  Griffith James was the son of Evan James, who tradition says, was born on the passage from Wales, and of Margaret, daughter of Griffith Jones.  Their marriage certificate is printed in the Appendix.  David, the father of Evan, had suffered persecution in Wales, and is several times mentioned by Besse in his “Sufferings.”  In December, 1662, he was imprisoned three weeks for refusing to take the oath of allegiance.  In a more extended account of the same event, it appears he suffered with twenty-two others.  “Anno 1663.  About the month called January this year, David James [here follow the names of the rest] were committed to prison in Radnorshire until they should take the oath of allegiance, which yet had not been tendered them before their commitment.”  In 1674 David James attended a meeting at a house called Cloddian Cochion, within the corporation of Poole, where a small number of Friends were met together in silence.  Thomas Lloyd, of Dalabran (afterwards well known in Pennsylvania as Penn’s first deputy-governor), being present when fifteen armed men came to arrest those attending this meeting.  He requested them to remain awhile, and preached to them, for which offence he was fined, and most of those present.  That the David James here mentioned is the ancestor of this family is proved by papers in their possession.  He appears to have been one of those who purchased a right of land in Pennsylvania before leaving Wales; for his name is signed as a witness to two indentures of land from Richard Davies, gentleman, of Welshpoole, who had bought five thousand acres in Penn’s new province.  In the first indenture the land is granted on a peppercorn rent when lawfully demanded, two pounds per hundred acres being paid for it, reserving to Penn the annual quit-rent of a silver shilling as lord of the soil.  These old deeds are in the writer’s possession.  That from Penn bears his seal, which is appended to the parchment by a blue ribbon, and covered with a tin box four inches and a half in diameter, and an inch deep.

     David James arrived in Pennsylvania in August, 1682, with Margaret, his wife, and probably went at once to Radnor, and settled on the land he had bought before coming over.  They lived in a cave while building a log-house.  This dwelling is remembered by the husband of the writer as standing in his boyhood, though much decayed by time.

     The cave was excavated in the slope of the hill, and near a spring of fine water, celebrated before the coming of the white men as a favorite resting place of the Indians on the direct path westward.  The immigrant David built a good stone house, on one end of which are the initials of D&M/J and the date; but these have now been plastered over, and his descendants cannot remember the exact year, but know that is was early in 1700.  For a copy of the certificate sent over from the Friends’ Meeting, in Wales, in 1683, vide Appendix.

     There is a tradition in the family that David James came in the same vessel with William Penn; but the writer has reason to believe that he came with Thomas Lloyd in the America, Captain Wasey, at the same time as Pastorius, an account of whose voyage appears in Chapter III.  Lloyd was the head of the Welsh colony, as Pastorius was the German one; and it is evident, from records now extant, that these two celebrated pioneers expected to found a colony, each distinct from Penn’s English one at Philadelphia.