A History of the Earliest Milams in Virginia

Long before our Revolutionary War, MILAMs made their way to the Colony and Dominion of Virginia. John Mylam {Mylum} of Bristol, England, was Master of the sailing vessel John and made three voyages to the Virginia Port of York in 1699, 1700 and 1701. [1, 2] It may have been his death in Virginia which was administered in the Church of England's Prerogative Court of Canterbury, London in December 1701. American Wills and Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1610 – 1857 states in part: "Milam, John, of Bristol, who died in Virginia. Administration to Dorothy, wife of Richard Dyer, aunt and guardian of the children, John and Elizabeth Milam". [3]

In 1711, a passenger, John Mylam, sailed from Bristol to Virginia on the galley Cranfield. [5] So far I haven't been able to learn which Virginia port he may have entered.

James Millam / Milham of Whitehaven, England, was a ship owner and Virginia merchant. "Among the the leading shipowners of Whitehaven at the end of the {17th} century: James Milham had one quarter of a fishing boat and an eighth share in each of three ships...." [704] Ships were the largest of the ocean sailing vessels. At the time, shared ownership was usual in order to share the risks. "There was a sugar-house in which another iminent tobacco merchant, James Milham, was involved together with one Barwise..." [706] It refined sugar primarly for the local economy. As merchant, James made at least twelve voyages from Whitehaven to ports on the Patomac and the Rappahannock Rivers between 1707 and 1743. On an early voyage in 1707 James Milham was Master of the sailing vessel Pearl. [4]

In 1715 and 1718 a Robert Milham was the Master of the Resolution on voyages from Whitehaven to Virginia. She was built to order for the very successful merchant, Henry Tubman, for the Virginia plantation trade and was "by far the biggest of these {Whitehaven} ships at 200 tons". [705] But most often Robert Milham captained coal carrying vessels sailing up to eight time a year to Dublin, Ireland.

You may view my preliminary spreadsheet of the MILAM mariners and passengers here (link) .

By the early 1760s, court records document MILAMs in these counties in the Colony and Dominion of Virginia:

Thomas Milam (24 MAR 1738) in Orange (Culpeper) County [9, 10]
John Milam (27 MAR 1760) in Orange (Culpeper) County [309]
William Milam (26 MAY 1760) in Bedford County [6]
Benajmin Millam (26 AUG 1760) in Orange (Culpeper) County [446]

John Milam Sr. (DEC 1750) in Brunswick County [7, 636]
Edward Milam (24 JAN 1754) in Brunswick County [8]
Adam Milam (27 NOV 1760) in Brunswick County [637]
Samuel Milam (6 MAR 1761) in Chesterfield County [638]
James Milam (7 MAY 1762) in Chesterfield County [639]
Edmund Milam (2 OCT 1770) in Brunswick County [703]

Based upon his hand writing we now know that the John Milam Sr first found in Brunswick County (1750) then in Chesterfield County (1760) then later in Halifax County (1764) and finally in York County, SC (~1787) is the same man, the same John Milam. You may read about this important discovery here (link) . { By the way, there is no valid evidence that John Milam Sr ever liver in Culpeper, Louisa or Goochland County, Virginia. Read the details here (link) .}

Having read thousands of pages of county court records from all of the above counties, the evidence is overwhelming that the Milams arrived in Virginia as indentured servants (link) . Since such servants were not paid a wage during their 4 - 7 years of indenture, they had to borrow money to get started afterwards and frequently fell behind in the payment of their land lease or the money they owed to merchants. Like most folk, the Virginia Milams were repeatedly sued in their county courts for debts as you may read in the Chronology of each man's life by clicking on their names: Thomas (link) , John (link) , Benjamin (link) , William (link) and John Milam Sr (link).

Furthermore, the first generation Milams — Thomas of Orange / Culpeper counties and John Sr of Brunswick / Chesterfield counties — signed deeds, contracts and wills with his mark rather than their signature because they lacked the literacy skills to write their name. In those situations - typical of ~ 80% of the population - the attorney who wrote the document would write the person’s name and leave a space in the middle of it for his mark as you can see:

Thomas Milam Signed his 1761 Indenture with his Mark: TM.     John Milam Sr Signed his 1770 Indenture with his Unique Mark.
Thomas Milam's Mark: TM John Milam Sr Mark

The spellings of their surnames were at the whim of the attorney or Clerk of Court. This is how award winning author, David Hackett Fischer, described the immigrants to Virginia in his 2000 best selling book, Bound Away:

"New England had drawn its population mostly from the middle of English society. Virginians came in greater numbers from both higher and lower ranks. In quantitive terms {Governor Sir William} Berkley's "distressed cavaliers" were only a small part of English migration to the Chesapeake colonies. The great mass of Virginia's immigrants were humble people of low rank. More than 75% of the immigrants came as indentured servants....Two-thirds of Virginia's colonists were unskilled laborers, or farmers in the English sense - agraian tenants who worked the land of others. Only about 30 percent were artisans. Most were unable to read or write...." [15]
Governor Sir William Berkley (1642 - 1652 and 1660 - 1677).
You can see why he and his rank were referred to as Dandies.
Governor Sir William Berkley of Virginia

The esssential societal difference between the settling of New England and the settling of the Mid Atlantic Colonies were the demands of the Tobacco Economy (link) which was the foundation of the latter. Indeed tobacco was so important that it literally became the common currency of business for more than 175 years. Because it was so labor intensive, it required the importation of not only indentured servants but, increasingly, African slaves, the King's prisoners from the Jacobite uprisings in Scotland and even London City's convicts. [641, 642] This is why many second generation Milams removed from Virginia - it was unprofitable to compete with slave labor. [478, 479] A map of extent of the exodus from Virginia is here (link) .

There was no disgrace in the life of the immigrant indentured servant (link) . These were simply the facts for the vast majority who couldn't otherwise afford their passage from Great Britain. [640] Indeed two United States Presidents were indentured servants: Andrew Johnson to a tailor and Millard Fillmore to a clothmaker. The facts of these Milams' existence - as demonstrated in the Chronologies of their lives - are a testament to just how much our hard working ancestors endured to succeed in this new land. Incidentally, Oliver Milam of www.milam.com recently found that the merchant John Milam of Boston removed to Ireland with his family and sons in 1652. Thus they couldn't have settled in Virginia as some had imagined.

It was long believed that John Milam Sr and Thomas Milam were brothers primarily because of their similar age and their eventual location in the Piedmont of Virginia. It turns out that the descendants of these early Virginia Milams are very closely related. What we have learned from the Family Tree DNA Milam Surname Project as of 2019 is that most Milams in the United States (40 of 41 tested) are the same genetic Haplogroup:


and are descended from the Colonial Virginia Milams. The one man who is not genetically related is a descendant of a William Mileham, born ~ 1756 in the Colony of Pennsylvania. He has a very different Haplogroup: I1-M253>F2642. There may well be other Milams in America of different genetic families since we have found at least six genetically distinct Milam / Mileham / Milum families in Great Britain. But for now, in 2019, this is what we know. You may read my discussion of Milam Genetic Genealogy by clicking here (link) and read about our Y-DNA testing of 26 British Milams here (link) .

I am a descendent of Thomas Milam (of Orange / Culpeper Counties) youngest son, Rush, who was mentioned in Thomas' Will (image). [126] For that reason I initially researched the lives of Thomas and his sons in the court records of Orange County; their portion was named Culpeper County in 1749. After Thomas removed to Bedford County in 1761, I researched the county records there. All together I have read the court records in the counties where Thomas and his sons lived from 1730 through 1793. In 2018, I undertook the challenge of unraveling the early history of John Milam Sr by reading more than 2500 pages of Virginia county court records which you may read about here (link) .

My research of Thomas's life led me to search for the exact location of Thomas' property in these counties and to discover his wife, Mary Rush, and her father, William Rush IV, a County Constable who farmed just to the southeast of Thomas Milam. You may view his land plat on a current map by clicking here (image). Although the ancestors of Thomas Milam are still unknown, William Rush IV's lineage [11] can be traced to his great grandfather, William Rush I, who immigrated to Virginia between 1635 and 1650. [12, 13] His portion of Northumberland County was partitioned off as Westmoreland County in 1653 where there are many records for the four generations of William Rush(s). My history of the Rush family of Westmoreland County may be found under the Rush Family tab or by clicking here (link) .

The photos at the top of this page show in the distance the north side of Doubletop Mountain where Thomas Mylam had 203 acres along the "south fork of the Robinson River", present day Rose River. The photo was taken from the Skyline Drive ~ 5 miles north of Milam's Gap in the Shenandoah National Park just north of Big Meadows looking southeast. The summit of Doubletop is just right of center.

If you hover your mouse over it, a second photo appears which was taken from the summit of Old Rag Mountain looking south to Doubletop. Thomas Mylam's property is in the center of view. On the far left, East, where Doubletop descends to join the Robinson River valley lies the land of the Rush brothers, William and Benjamin. The summit of Doubletop is at the far right, West. In the foreground running the width of the photo is the south slope of Old Rag. Full credit to Robert Vernon for locating Thomas Milam's land for me.


NOTE TO READERS: All the words in bold type face are links to photographs, maps or word definitions in the Glossary. I urge you to explore by left clicking on them. Once you have clicked a link, it will be displayed in dark red type. Some of the images have "roll–overs" whereby, if you hover your cursor over the image, a second image appears - as above. In the case of historical documents, the second image will be a typed transcription of the colonial script as demonstrated here. Citations are enclosed within brackets [ ] and are found on the Citation link under Resources. Clarifications within my writing will be found within ( ) and within direct quotes will be found within { }. Since the spelling of the "Milam" name often varies even within a single document, I will sometimes revert to the generic "Milam" rather than using the various spellings.

Try clicking on "Will " (image) in the text above and this word: Hogshead - be sure to click "Image" at the end of this definition too.


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