Nicolas Martiau

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Nicolas Martiau
Medallion representing Nicolas Martiau.
Born 1591
Île de Ré, France
Died 1657 (aged 65–66)
Colony of Virginia
Nationality French
Spouse(s) Jane Berkely
Statue of George Washington, with a medallion of his ancestor from Île de Ré, Nicolas Martiau.

Nicolas Martiau (1591–1657) was a Frenchman who immigrated to the English colony of Virginia in the 17th century. Born in the western island of Île de Ré, he is an ancestor of the first American president, George Washington.

The garden behind the Ernest Cognacq Museum in Saint Martin de Ré holds a monument with a statue of George Washington, with the base of the monument featuring a medallion representing Martiau. The monument was inaugurated on October 11, 2007, by the ambassador of the United States to France. The filiation between the two men is described on the monument.


Nothing is known of Martiau's youth except that he has learned to read by studying the Gospels and the Bible. At the same time he absorbed the doctrine of Calvin, and he learned to speak English. But it is likely that, because of political and religious context of the time, he was forced into exile in England since it contains his signature on a register and a Huguenot church. In January 11, 1619, he was naturalised English. He married Englishwoman Jane Berkeley, widow of Sir Edward Berkeley. Nicolas Martiau's will written March 1, 1656/7, proven April 24, 1657, names daughters Elizabeth Reade, Mary Scarsbrook, Sarah Fuller, his three sons-in-law and provided freedom for slaves Phill and Nicholas.

On May 16, 1620, Nicolas Martiau, aged 29, left England on the Francis Bonaventure in August 1620 and arrived in Jamestown which he built fences defense which allowed the city to be spared in a massacre by the Indians in 1622. The success of this action earned him the title of "master engineer fences". In 1627, Nicholas Martiau married Isabel Beech. He died in Yorktown, Virginia, in 1657.

Nicholas Martiau is the earliest emigrant ancestor of George Washington and Robert E. Lee.