Dillard, Giddens, Greene, Hollingsworth, Lott, Love, Maloy,
Mathis, McCall, McMahan, Moore, Roberts, Sweat & Others
of Wiregrass Georgia & Beyond

Entries: 34005    Updated: 2017-12-16 17:11:06 UTC (Sat)    Owner: Irisheyes

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  • ID: I19296
  • Name: Margaret CORNISH
  • Sex: F
  • Birth: ABT 1619 in AFRICA
  • Death: BET 1642 AND 1722 in Tidewater, "Hog Island" on Lt. Sheppard's Estate, Virginia English Colony (now USA)
  • Event: Source http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/Stringer-Talbot.htm
  • Event: Source Publication: Children of Perdition: Melungeons And the Struggle of Mixed Races
  • Event: Note My biological maternal 8th great grandparents.
  • NATI: African
  • Event: Fact 17 OCT 1740 "... negro woman servant belonging unto Lieutenant Sheppard" (court document, Virginia)
  • Reference Number: IND19988
  • Note:


    The saga of the Gowen or Goin family, the largest branch in the Melunge
    family tree, begins with a lovers' triangle in early colonial Virgini
    African-American John Gowen was the servant of an Englishman named Willi am
    Evans in Elizabeth City, Virginia. John Gowen had first arrived in Virgin ia
    prior to 1630. John, probably born in Angola about 1615, was possibly o ne
    of a number of prisoners taken from a captured Portuguese slave ship o ff the
    coast of Angola in 1628, by the English pirate Arthur Guy. That year Capt ain
    Guy traded his stolen Angolan slaves in Jamestown, Virginia for tobacc o. The
    plantation owner William Evans, as was the custom, offered a bid for Gow en in
    Jamestown and John was indentured for about the usual term of 7-10 year


    Evans' neighbor was the planter Robert Sheppard. Lt. Sheppard was o ne of the
    ranking leaders of the Virginia colony, serving in the Virginia House of
    Burgess; North America's oldest continually existing legislature. Sheppa rd
    had a Negro servant girl named Margaret Cornish. John Gowen married Marga ret
    and they had a son in 1635 whom they named Michael Gowen. Margaret remain ed
    bound to the household of Lt. Sheppard with her son Michael, while John Go wen
    worked for Evans and eventually earned release from his indenture and beca me
    North America's first recorded free black man.

    Next to the plantations of Evans and Sheppard lived another white plant
    named Robert Sweat (sometimes spelled "Sweet"). Margaret fell in love wi th
    Sweat and she became pregnant with his child in late 1640. The affair w as
    exposed and she and the white man Sweat, were brought before the court. T he
    two were judged guilty of the charges and Virginia court records contain t he
    sentence handed down on October 17, 1640.

    "Whereas Robert Sweat hath begotten with child a negro woman servant
    belonging unto Lieutenant Sheppard, the court hath therefore ordered th at the
    said negro woman shall be whipt at the whipping post and the said Sweat sh all
    tomorrow in the forenoon do public penance for his offence at James City
    church in the time of divine service according to the laws of England in t hat
    case provided."

    Within 5 months of the sentencing of his wife and Robert Sweat, the
    African-American John Gowen petitioned the court for the freedom of the ch ild
    he and Margaret had produced five years earlier. The date of his suit
    coincides with the time Margaret would have been showing the pregnan cy of her
    illegitimate child by Sweat.

    March 31, 1641-Suit of John Gowen:

    "Whereas it appeareth to the court that John Gowen, being a negro serva
    unto William Evans, was permitted by his said master to keep hogs and ma ke
    the best benefit thereof to himself provided that the said Evans might ha ve
    half the increase which was accordingly rendered unto him by the said neg ro
    and the other half reserved for his own benefit: And whereas the said neg ro
    having a young child of a negro woman belonging to Lt. Robert Sheppard whi ch
    he desired should be made a Christian and be taught and exercised in the
    church of England, by reason whereof he, the said negro did for his said
    child purchase its freedom of Lt. Sheppard with the good liking and conse nt
    of Tho: Gooman's overseer as by the deposition of the said Sheppard and Ev ans
    appeareth, the court hath therefore ordered that the child shall be free f rom
    the said Evans or his assigns and to be and remain at the disposing and
    education of the said Gowen and the child's godfather who undertaketh to s ee
    it brought up in the Christian religion as aforesaid."

    In time John Gowen remarried and had at least one other son named Philip b orn
    about 1650. Margaret bore Robert Sweat's child and later bore another chi ld
    out of wedlock, surnamed Cornish. Later, Margaret Cornish was freed, y et she
    lived the rest of her days on a section of Sheppard's estate called 'Hog
    Island'. The names of Gowen, Sweat, and Cornish are borne by Melungeon
    descendants to this day.


    Michael, the five year old child of John Gowen and Margaret Cornish, was
    removed from his mother and placed in the home of Captain Christopher
    Stafford of Virginia in 1641. The African-American youth remained a serva nt
    of the Stafford family until his 18th birthday. Christoper Stafford had d ied
    in the meantime, and his sister, Anne Stafford Barnhouse, legally held
    Michael's indenture. Anne Barnhouse also had an African-American serva
    girl named "Prossa". While a servant in the Stafford household, Michael
    Gowen had gotten a son by Prossa, and the child was named William Gowen.

    In his will, Captain Stafford desired Michael to be freed from servitude u pon
    his death. His sister carried out his wishes on October 25th, 165 7. In a
    legal statement, Anne Barnhouse also freed Michael's young two-year old s on
    William, but she retained the child's mother Prossa, as her servant,
    effectively breaking up the family.

    "Bee itt known unto all Christian people that whereas Mihill Gowen Neg ro of
    late servant to my Brother Xopher Stafford deced by his last will & Testam ent
    bearing Date the 18 of Jan 1654 had his freedom given unto him after the
    expiration of 4 years service unto my uncle Robert Stafford Therefore kn ow
    all whom itt may concern that I Anne Barnehouse for divers good couses m ee
    hereunto moving do absolutely quitt & discharge the sd Mihill Gowen from a ny
    service & for ever sett him free from any claim of service either by m ee or
    any one my behalf as any part or parcell of my Estate that may be claim ed by
    mee the said Amy Barnhouse my heyres Exers Admrs or Assignes as witne ss my
    hand this 25 Oct 1657 Amy (AB) Barnhouse

    Bee itt knowne unto all Xcian people that I Ame Barnehouse of Martins hund red
    widdow for divers good causes & consideracons mee hereunto moving hath giv en
    unto Mihill Gowen Negro he being att this time servant unto Robert Staffo rd a
    Male child borne the 25 August 1655 of the body of my Negro Prosta being
    baptised by Mr. Edward Johnson 2 Sept 1655 & named William & I the said A my
    Barnhouse doth bindmy selfe my heyres Exer Admr & Ass never to troub
    molest the said Mihill Gowin or his sone William or demand any servi ce of the
    said Mihill or his said sone WilliamIn witnes whereof I have caused th is to
    be made & done I hereunto sett my hand & Seale this present 16 Sept 1655 A my
    (AB) Barnhouse."

    John Gowen and his immediate family knew how to use the judicial syst em of
    17th century colonial America. His son Philip Gowen successfully sued f or
    his freedom on June 16th, 1675 from John Lucas. Lucas was ordered to prov ide
    the "Negro" Phillip with "three Barrels of Corne att the Cropp" accordi ng to
    the will of Amy Beazley, Gowen's original mistress. Several African-Ameri can
    Gowens left court and land documents from 17th century Virginia.

    After his release from servitude to the Staffords, Michael quickly remarri ed
    a free white woman in York County and had four sons in addition to Willi am by
    Prossa. His later sons, William, Daniel, Christopher and Thomas, born fr om
    1655 to 1660, were described as "mulatto" in surviving records. These lat ter
    branches of Michael's family quickly became light-skinned in just a few

    Michael Gowen moved to the adjoining Merchants Hundred Parish in James Ci ty
    County and received a land grant of 40 acres in 1668. Michael died in 170 8,
    about 73 years of age.

    (There's more at the web page)
    SOURCE: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~gowenrf/article6 .htm

    Marriage 1 John GOWEN b: ABT 1615 in Luanda (formerly Sao Paula De Luanda) near the Kwanza River, Northwestern Angola, AFRICA
    • Married: 1634 in Tidewater, Virginia English Colony (now USA)
    1. Has No Children Michael "Milhill" GOWEN b: 1635 in Tidewater, Virginia English Colony (now USA)

    Marriage 2 Robert "The Elder" SWETT b: 1600 in Wymondham, County Norfolk, ENGLAND
    • Married: 1639 in James City County, Virginia English Colony (now USA)
    1. Has Children Robert Cornish "of Norfolk" SWEAT b: 17 OCT 1640 in Norfolk County, Virginia English Colony (now USA)
    2. Has Children William Cornish "of Southwarke" SWEAT b: 1642 in James City County, Virginia English Colony (now USA)
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