Bertie County, NCGenWeb Project Page --Bertie Brothers


The Bertie Historical Association. October 1954 Vol 2 #2

It is well established that Bertie Precinct (later County) was formed from the Chowan Precinct in 1722 and was named for James and Henry Bertie. Not much attention, however, has been given to these two gentlemen who were important enough in British Government affairs at the time to have a precinct in the New World named for them. They were brothers. Although they owned no titles they were members of a noble family. James was the more active in the affairs of the Lords Proprietors at the time Bertie Precinct was set up. Neither of them ever came to North Carolina.

The Bertie family had been prominent in the military and political history of England since the fifteenth century. Robert Bertie was Lord of Bersted in Kent. Three generations later, Thomas Bertie was Captain of Hurst Castle, Isle of Wight, in the latter end of the reign of Henry VII; in the reign of Edward VI he was granted arms and a crest and was described as one who "had for a long time used himself in feats of arms and good works, so that he was worthy in all places of honor to be admitted, numbered and taken in the company of other nobles." Thomas' son, Richard, married in 1553 one of the most distinguished ladies of the day, Katherine, Baroness Willoughby of ERESBY, daughter and sole heir of William Willoughby. She was Duchess-Dowager of Suffolk, being the widow of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Their descendants who were numerous were honored by their sovereigns with several titles, some of which are:

Duke of ANCASTER, Earl of LINDSEY, Earl if ABINGDON, and Viscount of THAME. As is customary, each of these noble families had many additional titles. Except for the Duke of Ancaster whose title became extinct in 1802 through lack of an heir, all these titles are still in existence in England, but since 1892 there is an Earl of Ancaster. The four families were blood relations.

The branch of the Bertie family which is of most concern to Bertie County is that of the Earl of Abingdon created in 1682. The first Earl of that name was James Bertie, son of Montagu Bertie, second Earl of Lindsey. The first Earl of Abingdon married Elenora, sole heir of Sir Henry Lee Ditchly in the County of Oxford. Her mother was a near relative of the Earl of Danby. Elenora died May 31, 1691, leaving six sons and three daughters. The eldest, Montagu, became the second Earl of Abingdon. The second son was James, the third Henry, and there followed in succession Robert, Peregrine and Charles as well as Bridget, Anne and Mary. James and Henry, second and third sons, were the Lords Proprietors associated with the name of Bertie Precinct. Being younger sons of a noble family they were entitled to have the word "Honorable" before their names.

JAMES BERTIE, was born in March 1673 and was seated at STANWELL in Middlesex County and was one of the representatives of the County of Middlesex in the last three parliaments of Queen Anne, the two following called by George I, and the first summoned by George II. On January 5, 1692, he married Elizabeth, the only surviving daughter of George Willoughby, seventh Lord Willoughby of PARHAM, and by the death of her brother John, eighth Lord Willoughby (to whom she was heir), and by the will of her Uncle Charles, tenth Lord Willoughby (who left no issue), inherited a great estate. She was born April 26, 1673 and died September 26, 1715. She gave birth to fourteen children of whom six lived to maturity. "James Bertie distinguished himself as a friend to the liberties of his country." He died in the year 1735 and was succeeded by his son Willoughby who afterwards became the third Earl of Abingdon. James' second son, Edward of Gray's Inn, County of Middlesex, was a lawyer and with three others handled the legal papers when the property of the Lords Proprietors was transferred in 1729 to the King. He died in 1734.

HENRY BERTIE, third son of the first Earl of Abingdon was born May 4, 1675, wedded in 1708 Annabelle-Susana, daughter of Viscount Glenoly in Ireland and widow of Marcus Trevor, Viscount Duncannon. She died the same year without issue. He married, secondly, Mary, daughter and one of the coheirs of Peregrine Bertie, son of Montague Bertie, second Earl of Lindsey and widow of Anthony Henly of the Grange in Hampshire and by whom he had an only daughter, Susanna, who married Charles Bertie, son of her Uncle Charles. Henry died in 1735.

Having established the identity of these two eminent persons it will be of value to learn of their connection with the Lords Proprietors.

As is well known, Charles II, in 1665, gave to eight of his titled friends and supporters all the lands in America lying between 36 degrees 30' and 29 degrees north latitude; that is, from the present North Carolina-Virginia line to a short distance below St. Augustine, Florida. The friends and supporters were Edward, Earl of Clarendon; George, Duke of Albermarle; William, Earl of Craven; John Lord Berkeley; Anthony Lord Ashley-Cooper; Sir George Carteret; Sir John Coleton; and Sir William Berkeley. With the exception of the Carteret (later, Granville) share this property was sold back to the Crown in 729. In the 66 years of Proprietary rule, the shares changed hands many times, some through inheritance; some through purchase; and some were subject to considerable litigation. After many years the share of the Duke of Albermarle came into the possession of the Duke of Beaufort, a minor. A person of experience in political and governmental affairs was needed to care for his interests and in due course it is recorded that James Bertie acted for the Duke of Beaufort as early as 1715, he continued to do so through 1723. In this he became well acquainted with the problems and procedures of the Proprietorship and well known to his associates. Being a man of wealth he had, during this period, been able to acquire in his own right the share first owned by the Earl of Clarendon after it had passed through several hands, including those of Seth Sothel, well, and unfavorably, known in Bertie. On page 34, vol iii of the Colonial Records are these words, "and whereas the part, share, interest and estate of the said Edward, late of Clarendon. . . is now come into and vested in the Honorable James Bertie of the Parish of St. John the Evangelist, in the liberty of Westminster, in the County of Middlesex, Esquire, in his own right" . . . "and the part, share, interest and estate of the said George, late Duke of Albermarle of and in the same premises is come into and vested in the said James Bertie . . . in trust for the Duke of Beaufort." In March 1722 Christopher Gale of Edenton, was appointed deputy in North Carolina for the Honorable James Bertie Esq. "one of the true and absolute Lords Proprietors."

The details regarding Henry Bertie are fewer. On page 35, vol. iii of the Colonial Records are the following: "and the part, share, interest and estate of the said Sir William Berkeley of and in the same premises is now come into and vested in the Honorable Henry Bertie of Dorton, in the County of Bucks (Buckinghamshire) Esq. and others . . ." Henry Bertie is listed as a Lords Proprietor in the transfer of the property to the King in 1729, but the date he acquired the share of Sir William Berkeley is not recorded, nor is the title to this share entirely clear as it was also vested in two others who appeared to have equal claims. The matter was in the courts in 1723 and probably at other times. Apparently the matter was decided in Henry Bertie's favor as he sat as a Lords Proprietor in 1728 and later in the transaction concerning the transfer to the Crown even through two othr claimants had recognized rights. There is no record that Henry Bertie sat in a meeting of the Lords Proprietors before 1728.

James was more active in the affairs of the Proprietorship than his brother. He had been a member both before and after the formation of Bertie Precinct. He seemed to be their chief spokesman during the last ten years of the Proprietary existence and was diligent in clearing up the details afterwards. In meetings, he signed the minutes just after the Palatine, Lord Carteret; in letters, his name was usually mentioned first in fact, some historians think that the county was named for him alone. On page 51 of Ashe's History of North Carolina, Vol. 1, referring to Clarendon's share, are the words; "eventually this share passed to the Honorable James Bertie after whom the County was named;" and on page 207, referring to the establishment of Bertie Precinct in October 1722 is the following: "A new precinct was laid off in that territory named Bertie in compliment to the Proprietor." At the risk of being tedious, but in substantiation of James Bertie's industry, four other items are appended. (1) In Colonial Records, Vol. 11, Page 559, it is stated that in January 1724 four Lords Proprietors including James Bertie accepted the complaint of seven of the ten North Carolina Councillors and removed Governor Burrington and appointed Sir Richard Everard, Baronet in his place. It might be appropriate to add that in so doing they "swapped the pot for the kettle." (2) In the same volume of the Colonial Records, pages 769 and 770, there is a letter from the Attorney General, Great Britain, to the Duke of Newcastle, dated Lincoln's Inn, 3rd August 1728, in part, as follows: (the spelling has been occasionally modernized.)

My Lord,
. . . On the 13th of July Mr. Paxton laid before us copies of the several petitions of the Proprietors to the Lords of the Committee of Council and of their reports thereupon, with directions from the Lords of the Treasury to prepare the necessary instruments. Upon that we immediately acquainted the agents of the Proprietors that their respective titles ought forthwith to be laid before us in order to form a judgment whether a good title could be made to his Majesty, in what manner the conveyance ought to be framed and what parties were necessary to join therein. We likewise directed Mr. Paxton to quicken them in bringing these matters before us. But from that day to this not one deed or paper relating to the title has been produced until this evening, when abstracts were left at my chambers of the titles of Mr. James Bertie, Mr. Henry Bertie, and Mr. Hutcheson but without any of the original Deeds . . . which in some of the Proprietorships may require particular consideration, there having been several subsequent conveyances since the first grant and some thereof litigated . . .
I am always with the greatest truth and respect, My Lord
Your Lordships most obedient and most faithful humble servant,
P. Yorke.
This correctly phrased, carefully worded, and precise letter had the desired effect. James Bertie, Henry Bertie and their colleagues in the Proprietorship did provide the Attorney General with the necessary papers since the transfer to the King was made the following year. (3) On March 31, 1729, Governor Everard wrote the Court of Chancery, Edenton, in part, as follows:" . . . having received notice by a letter from the Honorable James Bertie and others from Great Britain, acquainting me with the sale of this Province to His Majesty, King George . . ." (4) On page 21, Colonial Records, Vol. 111 is found the final notation dated September 2, 1731. It reads: "Mr. (to be continued)
CREST: The crest of the Bertie family is a PINE TREE.
COAT OF ARMS: VIRTUS ARIETE FORTIOR The above Coat of Arms of the Duke of Abingdon is explained in Collins Peerage of England as: Arms: Argent, three battering rams, barways in pale, proper, armed and garnished Azure.

Crest: On a wreath, the head and bust of a King couped proper, crowned ducally, and charged on the chest with a fret. Or.

Supporters: On the dexter side, a pilgrim, or friar, vested in russet, with his staff and pater noster. Argent o the sinister, a savage, wreathed about the temples and middle with ivy, proper. On each of their chests a fret. Or.

Motto: Virtus Ariete Fortior:
Virture is stronger than a battering ram

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