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Newport's News. Nomen non Locus.

By Chas. Harris.

Philadelphia, Pa., September 15, 1882.
Rev. J. Wm. Jones, Secretary Southern Historical Society:
Dear Sir — I have noticed for the past two years or more that the promontory at the mouth of James river, on its eastern side, is spelled in some Virginia newspapers as Newport News, and in others as Newport's News; and I saw, a week or two ago, in a recent number of the Norfolk “Notes, Queries and Answers,” a brief communication from a distinguished citizen of Richmond, Va., saying that the surnames of Captain Christopher Newport and Captain Thomas Newce “are said to have furnished the component one of Newport Newce, now corrupted into Newport News.”

As Captain Newport left the colony of Virginia in the autumn of 1611, never to return, and as Captain Thomas Newce first arrived in the colony after April 18th, 1620,1 on which date he, (being “now present” in London, as the record of the Virginia Company of London states,) was appointed, by a resolution of the Company, to be a “Deputy,” to “take charge of the Company's Lands and Tenants in Virginia whatsoever,” it is, I think, highly improbable that the name (even supposing it to have been originally Newport-Newce) was given to the promontory in honor of, and to commemorate the joint surnames of Captain Newport and Captain Thomas Nuce or Newce.

The distinguished citizen, above alluded to, is not the first person who has entertained the theory that the name was originally Newport-Newce, although he is, as far as I have learned, the first one who has connected the name of the deputy Thomas Nuce with it. That eminent citizen of Virginia, the late Hugh Blair Grigsby, in a letter dated April 14th, 1867, to Mr. Charles Deane, Recording Secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society, wrote a labored argument to show that the name was originally Newport-Newce, and should for all time [490] be so spelled; but he contended that the name was bestowed on the place by Captain Newport, to commemorate his own surname and the surname of the Knight-Marshal of Virginia, Sir William Newce. Before going very far into Mr. Grigsby's letter, I found he had not sufficiently posted himself on the subject, and that in consequence his theory was, for the most part, a draft on his own imagination. En passant--I here remark that this question was one of quite earnest public discussion by numbers of the literati of Eastern Virginia (including the late Honorable John Tyler of that State) in the twenties and thirties of this century; and it seems that merely from not having delved as deeply as they could have done, even at that day, down among the records of the past, they failed to arrive at a decision of the question, and so left the controversy, to give employment to the pens of their successors, of half a century later.

As the overthrow of Mr. Grigsby's theory will be the defeat of the theories of all others who held, or now hold, that the name was originally spelled Newport-Newce, whether bestowed as to the last half of the name in honor of Captain Thomas Newce, or of the Knight-Marshall, Sir William Newce, I now proceed, without further preliminaries, to open my batteries on Mr. Grigsby's position.

Mr. Grigsby says: “Newport was the old Admiral of the Colony, and Sir William Newce, in the character of Marshal, commanded [1621] the fort at or near Newport's News;” and in much more verbiage than that I now here use, he pictures Newport and the Marshal going off together, in the latter's pinnace, to board incoming ships, which, as Mr. Grigsby says, “backed their topsails and vailed their flags in honor of the Royal Standard of St. George.” Mr. Grigsby also depicts Newport, (being then “at last settled in his quiet home,” ) as “strolling by the shore” of Newport's News; and in this connection he says of the old salt, “he pauses in his path and gazes on the watery waste around him,” &c. A vision of a city “looms before him,” and under the fervors of his imagination, Mr. Grigsby represents Newport as then bestowing his own and his friend, the Marshal's, surname upon the promontory in question.

Be it observed that Mr. Grigsby commits himself to the position that the promontory did not receive its name (whether it was Newport-Newce or Newport's News) until the autumn of 1621; for, when referring to the abandonment of the Colony in 1610 by all the settlers then in it, and of their meeting, while on their way down the river, Lord De La Warr's long boat coming up the river, Mr. Grigsby says: “Now, [491] Newport was really present on this occasion, which, by the way, happened eleven years before Newport's News was named.”

Now, with respect to Newport's and Sir William Neuse's2 alleged joint presence in the Colony, let us see how a few facts of history will dissipate into vanishing mist the dreams of Mr. Grigsby as to this matter. But permit first a few remarks preliminary thereto.

When, in 1624, the King resolved to take away and abolish the charter of the Virginia Company of London, “an attempt was made to obtain the records of the Company by their opponents.” --[Neill.] Mr. Neill, in the preface to his history of that Company, states that Collingwood, the Secretary of the Company, informed Sir John Danvers, “a prominent member of the Company,” of this attempt, whereupon it was decided to have an accurate copy of the records made before the Company should be called on to deliver them up. To preclude discovery a clerk of Collingwood's was locked up in a room of Sir John's house “while he transcribed the minutes.” After the work was done on sheets of folio paper, each page, in order to prevent interpolation, was carefully compared with the originals by Collingwood, and then subscribed “Con. Collingwood,” and the whole (bound in two volumes, the first of 354 pages and the second of 387 pages, containing the Company's Transactions from April 28, 1619, to June 7, 1624), was taken by Danvers to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, who was President of the Company.

Space does not permit me to trace here the travels of these manuscript volumes through the hands and ownership of different parties in England and Virginia, until they came at length into the possession of Thomas Jefferson, and after his death were purchased by the Government of the United States, and are now in their manuscript state, in the library of that goverment in Washington, D. C.

Three days before the comparison was finished, judgment (in court) was pronounced against the Company, and on the 15th July the King ordered all the papers of the Company to be given up to a commission. This was done, but the commissioners knew nothing of the copies that had been executed by Collingwood's clerk.

[After repeated researches in England for the original minutes, they cannot be found, and it is supposed they were designedly destroyed because they contained entries damaging to the reputation of Sir Thomas Smith, one of the commissioners.] [492]

In writing the History of the Virginia Company of London, Mr. Neill made use of the above-mentioned copies, besides a large folio manuscript volume containing the letters of the Company, written in London, and the letters of the Colonial authorities, also other papers from 1621 to 1625, and a smaller folio in manuscript containing copies of earlier papers. I have given this detail of the Rev. Mr. Neill's sources of information in order to show upon what authority I stand whenever hereinafter I shall cite him as a witness.

And now let us revert to Mr. Grigsby's theory. On page 52 of Neill, it appears that John Chamberlaine wrote on the 18th December, 1611, from London, to Sir Dudley Carleton, ambassador at the Hague, as follows: “Newport, the Admiral of Virginia, is newly come home, and brings word of the arrival there of Sir Thomas Gates,” &c.

On the same page, and in reference to Chamberlaine's foregoing remark, Neill says: “After this, Newport was chosen one of the six masters of the Royal Navy, and was engaged by the East India Company to escort Sir Robert Shirley to Persia;” and for his authority Mr. Neill quotes Howe's continuation of Stowe's chronicles of England. We have no record showing that Newport ever returned to Virginia after 1611, and we have the following very strong grounds for believing that he never did return after that year to the Colony. After his return to England from Virginia in December, 1611, and his subsequent appointment to a high position in the Royal Navy, it seems he sailed for the East Indies, engaging in the meantime to convoy Sir Robert Shirley's ship to Persia. It is highly probable that the ships did not sail so early as March, 1612, which would be only three months after the arrival of Newport from Virginia.

But conceding that they did sail in March of that year, yet when we remember that in those days a voyage to the East Indies, out and home, consumed from two and a half to three years, we must admit, after making allowance for the detour to Persia, that Newport made good use of his time in getting back to London in July, 1614, after an absence only of two years and three months. We know that he did get back to London in that month and year from a foot-note by Mr. Charles Deane, recording secretary, &c., appended to Mr. Grigsby's before-mentioned letter to himself, in which Mr. Deane cites passages from letters written in London in July, 1614, stating that Newport arrived in London from the East Indies in that month and year.

As before said, we have no record of his having visited Virginia after 1611, and we have the following good reason to believe why he did not do so. Holding a permanent, honorable and well-paying position [493] in the royal navy, he would have had no grounds on which to return to Virginia on the affairs of the Colony, or the London Company, and as an officer of the royal navy, he could not have gone there, unless his ship had been ordered to go there by royal command, or he had been granted leave of absence to visit the colony on a merchant ship as a private individual. We have no record of his having so visited the colony. It must be remembered just here that his former rank of admiral was not held by commission from the royal government, but was bestowed on him by a mere corporation, the creature of the government, and liable at any moment to be deprived of all power and authority, and of its very existence, by the act of the royal government; a fate which befell the Company in 1624.

I think that Newport departed this life prior to the 17th November, 1619, for the following reason: At a “great and generall courte” of the Company in London, held on that day, the following minute was entered of record:

Whereas, the Company hath formerly granted to Captain Newporte a Bill of Adventure3 of fower hundred pounds, and his sonne4 now desyringe order from this Courte for the layinge out some part of the same; Mr. Treasurer was directed and authorized by this Generall Assembly to write to Sir George Yeardley and his Counsell of State [in Va.] for the effecting thereof.--[Neill.]

This minute is, I think, inconsistent with the theory, that Captain Newport was living when it was entered of record; for if he had then been alive, and had conveyed to his son, by deed of gift or of bargain and sale, a part or all of his right to locate lands in Virginia, the son, in that case, instead of applying to the Company in London, would have had recourse direct to the Colonial Authorities, to whom Captain Newport would have written, apprising them of his transfer of right to his son.

It may have been that Captain Newport had, at an early day, located lands to the extent of a portion only of his land warrant, or had sold a part of his right to locate lands to such extent, and that his son applied in November, 1619, to the Company in London for authority to locate the residue of lands he might be entitled to as the heir of Christopher Newport. [494]

In either event the existence of this minute disposes effectually of Mr. Grigsby's dream of Newport's being “at last settled in his quiet home” at Newport's News.

It is highly probable that Newport and Sir Wm. Newce were never personally acquainted with each other. Newport was a seafaring man sailing out of England, and was never in the Colony after 1611, and we have no record of his ever having visited Ireland while Sir William Neuse was “a planter in Ireland” before going to Virginia [Neill], and he did not visit that Colony until the autumn of 1621, when he went out as Marshal, “but died two days after reading his patent and commission” in public--[Stith, p. 159]. The Colonial Authorities, in a letter to the Company in London, dated 20th January, 1622, announce, among other things, the death of “Sir William Nuce,” who, they say, “did not, above two days, survive his reading of his Patent.” --[Neill, p. 363.]

As the performance of that ceremony usually took place (for obvious reasons) within a very short period after the advent into his field of official action of a public functionary, it is highly probable that Sir William died before he had been five weeks in Virginia. [Neill says that he died “in a few days” after his arrival in the Colony.] This fact effectually disposes of Mr. Grigsby's dream of Newport's retirement in 1621 from active life to his “quiet home” on his Virginia plantation, of his hobnobbing in that year with Sir William Neuse in the Colony, and of his then naming the eastern promontory at the mouth of James river Newport-Newce, in commemoration of Sir William and himself.

Mr. Grigsby was most evidently misled by the historian, Beverly, whose History of Virginia appeared in 1705. Mr. Grigsby says, that of all writers on the history of Virginia, Beverly “alone alludes to” the “origin” of the name. He quotes Beverly as saying: “It was in October, 1621, that Sir Francis Wyatt arrived Governor, and in November Captain Newport arrived with fifty men imported at his own charge, besides passengers, and made a plantation on Newport's News, naming it after himself.” Mr. Grigsby then dwells on “the important fact” “that Newport named the place after himself,” meaning, of course, that he (Newport) named it in November, 1621.

But Mr. Grigsby's authority, (Beverly,) while against his theory so far as the word Newce is concerned, (for Beverly writes it News, and puts Newport's name in the possessive case,) was utterly in error of the grossest kind when, through what was no doubt a lapsus memoriae, he substituted Newport for Gookin, as having arrived and settled at Newport's News in 1621. [495]

When the reader shall have advanced a few lines further in this paper he will appreciate the significance and force of the argument I now adduce against Beverly's careless assertion that Newport planted fifty men at his own charge on Newport's News in November, 1621. To say nothing of the singular coincidence of the fact of Newport's planting at Newport's News, at his own cost, the same number of men that Gookin planted, in the same month and year, at the same place, and at his own cost too, how are we to account (if such was the fact) for the utter silence, as to Newport and his company of settlers, manifested by the Colonial authorities in their letter of 20th January, 1622, to the London Company? If Gookin's expedition (no larger nor more important to the Colony than was this alleged expedition of Newport's) was deemed worthy of particular mention in that letter, it is, I think, simply absurd to suppose that the Colonial authorities would have omitted even the slightest mention of Newport's expedition had they known anything of it, and to suppose that, if it really took place, they were in total ignorance of it as late as the 20th January following the November in which it is supposed to have landed, is simply to manifest the most extreme degree of idiocy.

Of course Beverly was as far from the fact as he could have been when he said Newport landed an expedition on Newport's News in November, 1621. Newport was not even the master, as some might possibly think, of Gookin's ship in that year and month, or on that expedition, for we have the name of the actual master of that ship in the following extract from a letter of 20th January, 1622, written by the Colonial authorities to the Company in London:

Mr. Pountis hath had some conference with ye Master of the Irish Shipp, a Dutchman whose name is Cornelius Johnson, of Horne, in Holland.

And Neill specially states that this Johnson was master of Gookin's ship.

How early the promontory became known by the name Newport's News, I have not been able to ascertain, but that it was so known prior to the advent into Virginia (autumn of 1621) of Sir William Neuse, we have the following very good reason to believe.

At page 274 of Neill's History begins a long letter from the Colonial Authorities to the Company in London, dated 20th January, 1622. In it is the following passage: “There arived heere about the 22d of November, a shipp from Mr. Gookin, out of Ireland, wholy uppon his owne adventure5 withoute any relatione at all to his contract with you [496] in England. * * * He hath alsoe brought with him aboute fifty men uppon that adventure, besides some thirty other passengers. We have accordinge to their desire seated them at Newport's News, and we do conceive,” &c.

Now observe just here particularly that this letter takes it for granted that the Company in London were already perfectly aware that there was then a place in Virginia called Newport's News, and the Company must have known also its precise locality. But if the place had first received its name on 22d November, 1621 (only fifty-nine days before that January letter was written), the writers of it would, for obvious reasons, most assuredly have said in it: “We have, at their desire, seated them at the east point of the mouth of James river, which point has, within the last two months, been named Newport's News.”

Without some such explanatory remark, the Company in London would not have known whether Gookin's expedition had been seated above Jamestown, near Henrico, or below Jamestown, and above the mouth of the river, or on the southern shore of Hampton Roads, or on York river.

Besides this, it would be illogical and unbusiness-like to suppose that a man of Gookin's well-known intelligence, enterprise and energy, would not first visit and explore some considerable portions of the land, and doubtless select the locality where, or near where, he intended to plant his Company, before taking out from Ireland a Company of fifty emigrants, “well furnished with all sortes of pvisione, [provision,] as well as with cattle,” as is stated in that January-letter.

To do this properly, and then to go back to Ireland and get up an expedition of that kind, could not have been well performed in less time, at the very least, than one year.

He probably arrived in the Colony on his visit of exploration in the Summer of 1620, if not earlier, and as, when late in November, 1621, he arrived with his fifty settlers, and then desired, as the Colonial Authorities state, to be seated at Newport's News, where he had, without doubt, decided to settle in 1620, I think we may, with the utmost safety, assume that the Point was, in the Summer of that year, universally known by the name Newport's News.

Quite possibly it may be asked if the Point was known by that name [497] for some years prior to 1621, why is it that we do not find it mentioned by that name prior to that year. Premising the significant fact that we do not find it mentioned in the ancient records by any name prior to 1621, the obvious answer to that question springs up of itself.

So important a headland (important at least to sailors) as that promontory was, could not have been, and would not have been, permitted by seafaring men to stand without a name from 1608 to 1621. Their convenience absolutely required that it should, from the earliest years of the Colony, have a well-established name, and one universally known among seamen. This name I have no doubt was Newport's News, and while doubtless well known and in constant use among sailors from 1608, the chances were five hundred to one that the Colonial authorities would, in official communications to the Company in London, have no occasion to mention the name of the point until a settlement of people should be made there, while individuals returning to London from the Colony and masters of ships sailing between London and the Colony might, in their intercourse with members of the Company as private individuals, and with the Company itself as a corporation, have spoken, and no doubt did often speak, of Newport's News as a point which they had rounded or anchored before on such and such a date, when tide and wind were ahead.

That the point was not occupied by a settlement of white people prior to 1621, we have, I think, good grounds for believing from the facts now to be adduced. Rolfe's relation, written in Virginia in 1616, and now in the British Museum in the original manuscript, and sent by Rolfe to the Company in London in 1616, has, among others, the following statement:

The places which are now possessed and inhabited are sixe,

1st. Henrico and the lymitts,

2d. Bermuda Nether Hundreds,

3d. West and Shirley Hundreds,

4th. James Towne,

5th. Kequoughtan [now, 1882, Hampton],

6th. Dale's Gift; ‘upon the sea neere unto Cape Charles;’

and Rolfe states that 351 persons composed at that time the entire population of the Colony.

The first legislative, representative body that was ever convened in Virginia, was organized on 30th July, 1619, at Jamestown. All the settlements in the Colony, then eleven in number, were represented in that body, each settlement by two burgesses. I have the names of the eleven settlements now before me, but to economize space I do not here [498] give them. Suffice it to say, that the name Newport's News, as in Rolfe's list, does not appear among them. This shows that Newport's News was not inhabited by white people as late as July, 1619. And doubtless the place remained unoccupied until Gookin and his company were seated there in November, 1621.

Mr. Secretary, if the Public Authorities of a newly founded Colony in any part of the world, who were present at the foundation of it and at the naming of public places in it, did not know the names of such places, or, if they knew them, did not know how those names were spelled; but, if knowing the spelling, did not leave a record of those names for the guidance of posterity, then most certainly no person of subsequent generations could possibly know the ancient and correct mode of spelling those names; and if we are unwilling to accept the orthography of the first settlers, especially as given in official documents by educated men, we might as well give up our quest in despair, and accept any mode of spelling the names that any person of the present day may fancifully suggest.

Let us now see how the name of the point of land on which Gookin was settled, was spelled in official documents during the first generation of the Colony.

We have already seen in this paper that the Colonial Authorities, in their letter of January 20th, 1622, spelled the name as Newport's News.

At page 293, of Neill's History, begins a letter from the Governor and Council of Virginia, written in April, 1622, to the Company in London, giving an account of the great massacre that occurred in March of that year. While stating in that letter that after the massacre “Wee have thought most fitt to hold those few places,” which they proceed to specify by name, they mention as one of those places “Newport's News.”

At page 313, of Neill's History, is an account of certain proceedings of a Quarterly Court of the Company in London, held July 3d, 1622, relating to certain land in the Colony formerly belonging to “Mrs. Mary Tue.”

The record says: “Which land was for their servants psonall [personal] adventures, and lyes at Newport's Newes.”

In a memorandum of the same date, and in the same Quarterly Court, it is stated that the quantity of land referred to is “one hundred and fifty acres,” and was the “land she assigned over to Mr. Daniell Gookin.”

[The ancient records abound with instances where the common noun [499] “news” is spelled as “newes;” and as further undeniable proof that the word “Newes” in the foregoing quotation was not intended by the writer to represent Sir William Neuse's (or Newce's) surname, we must not overlook the significant fact that the name Newport is in the possessive case.

It is worthy of being noted here, that not only the Virginia Authorities, but the Company in London, as early as 1622, put the first word (Newport) of the compound name in the possessive case. Such unanimity, on both sides of the ocean, between the two official bodies, plainly shows how well established the name Newport's News had become as early as 1622 (only fifteen years after the foundation of the Colony), and utterly forbids the idea that either of those bodies supposed Sir William's surname had any place, or was intended to have any place, in the compound name.

In the 18th year of Charles I, “at a Grand Assemblie holden at James Cittie, the 2d of March, 1642, 1643,” there was passed an Act (being the 15th Act of that session) defining the boundaries of Warwick County.

In that Act occurs the following passage: “* * * from the mouth of Heth's Creek up along the lower side, * * * with all the lands belonging to the Mills, and so down to Newport's News, with the families of Skowen's damms and Persimmon Ponds.” --[Hening's Statutes at Large, Edit. 1809.]

Creed Taylor and William Munford, authorized examiners, certify at Richmond, Va., on the 1st September, 1809, that they have carefully compared the laws in Hening's volumes with the original manuscripts and find them to be correctly printed. They say that the terminating syllable “teon,” “which is invariably written in the earlier part of the manuscripts ‘con,’ is printed [in Hening] as it is now spelt ‘tion.’ ” And they add that “no other material variation from the ancient orthography has been observed.”

As you have seen, I have herein produced four instances of the mode in which the name was uniformly spelled (viz., as Newport's News) in public official documents between the years 1622 and 1643; and it is to be noted that in none of the official documents of that period and later is the name ever spelled otherwise.

I now proceed to cite an instance of what may be termed the semiofficial mode of spelling the name, and which will be found to correspond with the official mode.

It seems [Neill's History, p. 394] that in 1622 one Captain Nathaniel Butler was sent out from England to the Colony as a kind of public inspector [500] and censor, and in that year he formulated and sent to England a list of charges, separately numbered, not only against the natural condition of the country in some respects, but against the public administration of the affairs of the Colony.

A portion of his sixth charge is as follows: “I found not ye least peec of Fortification; Three peeces of ordinance onely [only], mounted at James Citty, and one at Flowerdue Hundred, but never a one of them serviceable,” &c.

In their reply to another charge, in which Butler had spoken of “bogges” in the country--“Divers planters that have long lived in Virgirnia, as alsoe sundry marriners and other persons y't have been often at Virginia” --say: “As for Bogges, we knowe of none in all ye country, and for the rest of ye Plantacons, as Newport's News, Blunt Poynt,” &c..

In their special reply to Butler's sixth charge, the planters say, among other things: “As for great ordinance, there are fower pieces mounted at James City, and * * * * there are likewise at Newporte Newes three. * * * *.”

As to the mode of spelling the name by some of the private individuals,.residing at that period in the colony, I now cite Mr. Deane, the recording secretary mentioned in the earlier pages of this paper. In a foot-note to Mr. Grigsby's letter to himself, Mr. Deane says, that Newport News is “mentioned in a letter from Virginia under date of February, 1622, 1623.” And Mr. D. adds, “Another letter of April 8th of that year, (the same which speaks of the death of Captain Nuse, referred to in a note further on,) is dated from ‘Newport News.’ ” That the writer of the last mentioned letter did not use the last word (News) of the compound name as a form of spelling the surname of Sir William or of Captain Thomas Neuse, we know when we find him adverting to Captain Nuse's death in that very letter. This shows conclusively that he understood the name of the point was compounded of Newport's surname, and of the common noun “news.”

Where, in the few instances in private letters of those early days, the first word of the name is written in the nominative case, while all the public official letters present the word in the possessive case, we have in this last mentioned fact, the best of grounds for believing that the writers of those few private letters were careless as to affixing the sign of the possessive case, or the type-setters omitted the sign through inattention; for while Newport News is a senseless collocation of words signifying nothing, the combination Newport's News would have some meaning, like the two first words in the title “Smith's [501] News from Virginia,” to which Campbell, at page thirty-nine of his History, refers, and which, in a pamphlet form, John Smith probably published in London soon after his return from Virginia in 1609.6

So the phrase “Whittaker's News,” would have some significance when mentioned by one Londoner to another in reference to “Good Newes from Virginia,” written in 1613, by the Rev. Alexander Whittaker, Minister of Henrico, Virginia, and sent by him in that year to the Company in London, and afterwards published there.

I have not read from Newport's pen any account of his discoveries and acts in Virginia, but I have no doubt that on one of his early returns to England from Virginia,7 he did publish a brief pamphlet respecting the affairs and prospects of the Colony, which probably was entitled or was popularly known as “Newport's News from Virginia,” and in some way and for some reason that have been lost and will now never be ascertained, the first two words of the title were applied to the promontory which now bears that name. In his pamphlet he may have made special and laudatory mention of that promontory as the most desirable site on the Continent for a great seat of commerce when the country back to the mountains should become thickly settled. Possibly he may have made a hobby of the idea in his personal intercourse with people in both countries, in season and out of season, until at last people, whether in sport or otherwise, came to apply the two first words of the title of his pamphlet to the place as its name. Many a place in this country and in Europe has had its name stuck on it, or thrown at it until it stuck, in some such way by incidents or causes that no one at first supposed would result in shaping and attaching the name to the place.

As coinciding with this view of the case, and to prove that Newport was regarded as a great schemer, full of projects, vain and bombastic, I make the following quotations. Stith, at page 76 of his History, says: “Captain Newport was in reality an empty, idle, interested man, very fearful and suspicious in times of danger, but a very great and important person in his own talk and conceit.”

Sir William Keith in his “History of the British Plantations in [502] America,” speaks, at p. 81, Part I [London Edit., 1738], of Newport as one “whose head was full of projects;” and at p. 82 he says, “the vanity of Captain Newport's conduct at this time was so ridiculous that,” &c. Smith, when President of the Colony, made a Report to the Company in London, which can be found in his Generall history [Edit. 1629]. In this Report he says, among other things, “I have not concealed from you anything I doe know, but I fear some [persons] cause you to believe more than is true. * * * * Captaine Newport we much suspect to be the author of these inventions. * * * * The souldiers say many of your officers maintain their families out of what you sent us, and that Newport hath a hundred pounds a yeare for carrying newes.”

By whom and why was given to the promontory the name which it has borne for more than two centuries and a half, I think we shall never know with certainty, but I think my conjecture as to how the name came to be applied (as indicated in the foregoing passages), is not far from the truth.

Although in Smith's General History the name appears repeatedly as “Nuport's News” and “Nupor's News,” and once as “Nuport's Nuse,” it is yet absolutely certain that all these instances are typographical errors; for, to say nothing of Smith's opportunities to have acquired the correct orthography of Newport's name from having crossed the ocean with him in the same ship, and from having been associated with him some time at Jamestown, I have only to refer you to two instances in a passage of this paper, a few lines back, where Smith spells Newport's name correctly, and these are by no means the only instances of the kind in Smith's General History.

To some persons, not exercising due reflection, the name “Newport's Nuse,” quoted a few lines back, might appear, at first blush, as sustaining Mr. Grigsby's theory, but the fact of the first word in the name being in the possessive case is crushingly fatal to that theory, and is conclusive proof that the type-setter carelessly printed the word Nuse for News; pronouncing, in his mind, the word Nuse as if rhyming with Fuse, and therefore sounding, as to its last three letters, precisely like the sound of the last three letters of the word “News.”

Mr. Grigsby, in his letter to Mr. Deane, cites the compound name Newport-Pagnall, in England, and the following compound names in this country, viz: Hampden-Sidney, Randolph-Macon, Wilkes-Barre, and Say-Brook,8 in support of his theory; as if he should assert, by [503] way of argument: “Because those compound names are what they are, and were originated, as everybody knows, to perpetuate in each case the united surnames of two persons, therefore the compound name Newport's News is orthographically incorrect, and is but a corruption of what I assert is the true and original name, i. e. Newport Newce.”

I hardly ever saw an argument or an attempted argument that exhibited a more striking illustration than this one does of what is termed in logic a non sequitur. It is based wholly on an assumption; for neither the records nor tradition give any countenance to the idea that the name Newport's News was originally Newport-Newce.

The orthography of the name Newport's News we find to be Newport's News in the earliest official records; we know that it so stood and was handed down, undisputed in any quarter, through more than two centuries, viz: from 1621 to about 1828. Some one at that late day (1828), not being able to discover the reason why a common noun should have been combined with Captain Newport's surname to form an appellation for a certain point of land, and knowing that on the early settlement of Virginia there were two prominent men in the Colony bearing the name Newce, but not knowing that Newport was even acquainted with either of them, invents the theory without one single fact of history to sustain him, that the name was in its origin Newport-Newce. Others from time to time follow on his track. Some others take opposing views. “Hinc illae lacrymae,” vel potius, illi torrentes atramenti,” which have been shed in the contest of half a century. If it may be mine, “tantas lites componere,” I shall feel that I have not written on the subject in vain.

1 Neill, in his “History of the Virginia Company of London,” says, “Thomas Nuce settled at Elizabeth City, (now Hampton), but soon died.” An entry on the record of the Virginia Company of London, dated August 6th, 1623, mentions the receipt of a letter from Virginia, by a member of the Company, written by “the wife of deputy Nuce, deceased in Virginia.” Thomas Nuce had been appointed deputy by the Company.

2 The name is variously spelled in the records, viz.: as Neuse, Nuce, Newce, Nuse, and Nuice; but we have no trace of Sir William's own mode of spelling it.

3 This was the same kind of instrument that in the United States is now called a Land Warrant. It authorized the holder to locate land at a fixed valuation per acre. If at two shillings sterling per acre (the probable price at that day), Captain Newport's Bill of Adventure would have entitled him to 4,000 acres.

4John Newport, the only son and heir.”--[Nell.]

5 I. e., at his own cost. Mr. Gookin had, prior to this expedition, contracted with the Company in London to take out on their account to the Colony for certain consideration to be paid him, a certain number of immigrants, cattle, &c., but had not up to January 20, 1622, yet executed any part of his contract. The expedition referred to in the letter of 20th January, was a private adventure of Gookin's, and and was at his own sole risk and cost.

6 As early as 1608, and of course before Smith returned to England, he published in quarto form in London, “A true Relation of such occurrences and acidents of noate as hath happened in Virginia. * * * Written by Captaine Smith, Coronell of said Collony, to a worshipfull friend of his in England,” &a., &c. I have never seen this Relation.

7 He sailed to and fro many times between England and Virginia in the four years elapsing between 1607 and 1611.

8 Written at the present day Wilkesbarre and Saybrook.

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