Temperance Flowerdew, Lady Yeardley (1590 – 1628) was an early settler of the Jamestown Colony and a key member of the Flowerdew family, significant participants in the history of Jamestown. Temperance Flowerdew was wife of two Governors of Virginia, sister of another early colonist, aunt to a representative at the first General Assembly and "cousin-german" (first cousin) to the Secretary to the Colony.
Flowerdew was one of the few survivors of the brutal winter of 1609–10, known as the "Starving Time", which killed almost ninety percent of Jamestown's inhabitants. Later, upon the death of her second husband, George Yeardley, Flowerdew became one of the wealthiest women in Virginia. Upon her death, the estate was transferred to her children despite the efforts of her third husband to claim it. She appears on the periphery of many historical events that occurred during the period.
Tempestuous sea voyage
Now Mrs Barrow, she sailed for Jamestown aboard the Falcon, commanded by Captain John Martin, in May 1609 in a convoy of nine ships as part of the Virginia Company of London's Third Supply Mission. Whether she was accompanied by her husband is not of record. The flagship of the convoy, the Sea Venture, had the new leaders for Jamestown aboard, including George Yeardley. During the trip, the convoy encountered a severe storm which was quite likely a hurricane. The Sea Venture became separated from the rest of the convoy, ultimately coming aground on the island of Bermuda, where it was stranded for months. The Falcon continued on, reaching Jamestown in August 1609.
Arrival in Jamestown
Temperance Barrow arrived in Jamestown just before the winter of the Starving Time, an extraordinarily harsh winter which the majority of townspeople did not survive. As provisions grew scarce, some thirty colonists tried to steal corn from Powhatan, but most of the men were slain during the attempt, only two escaping. The "common stores that should have kept all of the colonists through the winter" were instead "severely reduced by Indian raids and consumed by the commanders". The colonists subsisted on roots, herbs, acorns, berries, and fish. By the end of the winter, the five hundred English who had been left in Virginia only numbered about sixty.
In May 1610, the survivors of the Sea Venture finally arrived, in two smaller ships constructed from its wreckage. The newcomers were "shocked to discover the state of the colony". Sir Thomas Gates took control as the new Lieutenant-Governor and decided to abandon the town. They loaded the survivors on the ships and headed down river. The next morning, they encountered a long-boat with dispatches from Lord De La Warr. He had just arrived with three ships, loaded with supplies for Jamestown. They all returned up the river, back to Jamestown, on the same day, and Lord De La Warr arrived two days later.
Family and Marriages
On 18 October 1618, she married George Yeardley. Exactly a month later he was appointed to serve three years as governor of Virginia, and was knighted by James VI and I during an audience at Newmarket on 24 November".
The couple had three children:
- Elizabeth Yeardley (1615–1660); married Major Joseph Croshaw.
- Argoll Yeardley (1617–1655).
- Francis Yeardley (1620–1655), "Upon reaching manhood he became quite prominent in the affairs of Virginia, being for some time a colonel of militia and in 1653 a member of the House of Burgesses for Lower Norfolk."
Flowerdew died in December of the same year, leaving her three children, aged 5, 10, and 14, as orphans. Upon her death, the estate she had inherited from Yeardley was divided among their three children. George Yeardley's brother, Ralph Yeardley, became trustee for the property. Governor West went to London to contest the will, but failed in the effort.
Stanley Flowerdew was her brother and also lived in Jamestown during the same era and involved with the Flowerdew Hundred Plantation. One of the representatives from the Flowerdew Hundred sent to the first General Assembly in Jamestown in 1619, was named, Ensign Edmund Rossingham. This was a son of Temperance Flowerdew's elder sister Mary Flowerdew and her husband Dionysis Rossingham.
Witness to John Rolfe's will
In 1622, Temperance Yeardley witnessed the will of John Rolfe, a fellow native of Norfolk. The other witnesses were Richard Buck (also from Norfolk) John Cartwright, Robert Davie, and John Milwards.
In 1619, her husband George Yeardley patented 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of land on Mulberry Island. He owned another private plantation upriver on the south side of the James River opposite Tanks Weyanoke, named Flowerdew Hundred. It is often assumed that Yeardley named this plantation "Flowerdew Hundred" after his wife, as a kind of romantic tribute. However, the land appears to have been in use by Stanley Flowerdew, Yeardley's brother-in-law, before it was patented by Yeardley. Although George Yeardley acquired the thousand acres that he named Flowerdew Hundred in 1619, it seems very likely that some settlement had begun there before that date, for his brother-in-law Stanley Flowerdew took a shipment of tobacco to England in the same year, probably grown on the same property." With a population of about thirty, Flowerdew Hundred Plantation was economically successful with thousands of pounds of tobacco produced along with corn, fish and livestock. In 1621 Yeardley paid 120 pounds (possibly a hogshead of tobacco) to build the first windmill in British America. The windmill was an English post design and was transferred by deed in the property’s 1624 sale to Abraham Piersey, a Cape Merchant of the London Company.The plantation survived the 1622 onslaught of Powhatan Indians, losing only six people. so the plantation may have been associated with the Flowerdew name before Yeardley's patent. Note that Yeardley named his Mulberry Island plantation "Stanley Hundred", undoubtedly after his Stanley in-laws. In other words, both of Yeardley's plantations were named in honor of his wealthy in-laws. Clearly, the Yeardley-Flowerdew alliance was as much to do with power politics and social status as with romance.
- Dorman, John Frederick, Adventurers of Purse and Person, 4th ed., v.3, pp861-872
- Biography of Temperance Flowerdew by Nancy LeSourd, Liberty Letters website, accessed July 12, 2010
- "Although George Yeardley acquired the thousand acres that he named Flowerdew Hundred in 1619, it seems very likely that some settlement had begun there before that date, for his brother-in-law Stanley Flowerdew took a shipment of tobacco to England in the same year, probably grown on the same property." Flowerdew Hundred: the archaeology of a Virginia Plantation by James Deetz, p. 19
- Ensign Edmund Rossingham, son of Temperance's sister Mary, represented Flowerdew Hundred in the first General Assembly in 1619. Southall, James P.C., "Concerning George Yardley and Temperance Flowerdew", William and Mary Quarterly, Jul 1947
- Charlotte Fell-Smith, ‘Pory, John (bap. 1572, d. 1636?)’, rev. David R. Ransome, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 accessed 28 Sept 2011
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- Jamestown Colony 1609 Jamestown Colony, 1609 website, accessed July 12, 2010
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- Parish records of St Gregory by St Paul, extracted for the Genealogical Department of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Batch M054261
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- Narratives of Early Carolina, J. Franklin Jameson, General Editor, published 1911 referencing W.G. Stanard, Virginia Colonial Registry, 1900.
- Dorman, John Frederick, Adventurers of Purse and Person, 4th ed., v.3, p.427
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- "Archaeological Excavations at 44JC568, The Reverend Richard Buck Site"
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 4, 2015. Retrieved October 22, 2008.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Flowerdew Hundred: the archaeology of a Virginia Plantation' by James Deetz, p. 19
- "On February 9, 1627-28, Lady Yeardley acknowledged a sale of the land under the name "Stanley Hundred" to Thomas Flint..." The Cradle of the Republic, Lyon G. Tyler, p.238
- Martha Stanley, Yeardley's mother-in-law, was daughter and heiress of John Stanley, a prominent Norfolk landowner
- Merrill, Eleanor Brown. "A Virginia Heritage, 1968" p. 53 Richmond, Va:Press of Whittet & Shepperson, 1968
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- "Francis Yeardley's Narrative of Excursions into Carolina, 1654," in Narratives of early Carolina, 1650-1708, ed. A.S. Salley, (New York, C. Scribner's Sons, 1911), 21-29