Life of James Wimble: The Story of a Sussex Family in America
By Baylus C. Brooks
James Wimble (1661-8 Feb 1704)
Ann ? (1661-23 May 1734)
Anna Wimble (bp. 4 May 1686)
John Wimble (bp. 6 Sep 1688-7 yrs old)
Priscilla Wimble (1690-5 Sep 1721) m. Joseph Wait
Martha Wimble (bp. 20 Feb 1693)
Mary Wimble (bp. 10 Jan 1695)
James Wimble (bp. 31 Jan 1697-1744) m. Rebecca Waters
William Wimble (bp. 6 Mar 1698)
Thomas Wimble (bp. 19 Jun 1699)
Sarah Wimble (bp. 27 Feb 1701)
Elizabeth Wimble (bp. 30 Apr 1701)
James Wimble, one of ten children born to James and Ann Wimble in St. Leonard’s Parish, Hastings, Sussex County, England, received baptism January 31, 1696/7, at Hollington-in-the-Wood Church. The family moved to southern Hastings sometime after the birth of James and his siblings and shortly before the father’s death in 1704. Wimble’s parents and sisters’ graves are at All Saints Church, located on High Street in Hastings. His brother, Thomas, Customs officer in Kent and freeholder in Hastings, lived in New Shoreham at the time of the Sussex Election of 1734 and erected stones in the memory of his parents just after his mother’s death in 1734 at the church on High Street. Coincidentally, the Mayor of Hastings, John Collier, lived on High Street as well and had intimate connections with the Duke of Newcastle, serving his interest directly as agent in the 1734 election. John Collier, in 1733 became the Surveyor-General of Customs in Kent and likely employed Thomas around that time, most likely at the behest of Newcastle.[i]
Newcastle, parliamentary representative for Sussex County and the Borough of Lewes, enlisted the aid of the mayor of Hastings, John Collier, during the politically unstable times before that election. Collier, certainly, knew the Wimble family, attending the same church and marrying the daughter of the All Saints Rector, James Cranston. The Wimbles, possibly influenced by Newcastle’s aid to James in America and by Collier’s active canvassing advertisements, personally and otherwise, inclined their favor toward the Pelhams. Such are the politics.
As to Wimble’s parents, Sussex Archaeological Records contain much information on their final resting place. These records show James’ (the father’s) death as February 8, 1704 and state his birth to be in 1661, the same year that his wife, Ann was born. Ann lives for thirty years after her husband and dies May 23, 1734. However, evidence is bare concerning the details of the brothers and sisters of James Wimble. Their father’s death so early in their life (James was only about seven years old) undoubtedly had much to do with this. The older sisters deserve a great deal of credit for helping on the farm during this crisis. Of one sister, Priscilla, also appearing on the family’s baptismal records of Hollington, she married a man named Joseph Wait, yet her remains lie beside her parents, having died September 5, 1721 at the youthful age of thirty-one. John, baptized in 1688, dies about seven years later.
James Wimble, the eldest remaining male child, lost a brother, a sister, and a father before he constructed his first ship and left Hastings in 1718 for his place in history.[ii] Thomas, remains in England, finally settling in New Shoreham.[iv] In 1735, shortly after the death of his mother in 1734, he erects stones to memorialize his family in the All Saints Cemetery beside the church.[v]
Another reference in British records refers to a William Wimble, “son of a Sussex farmer,” found guilty of smuggling wool to France in 1715. Apparently, this had been illegal for two years. William claimed coercion on the part of two Customs House officers and “the false evidence of one Samuel Wratten, a worthless character.”[vi] The officers were John Willard and John Writtle. Paul Collins, a Wimble family researcher and author of The Wimble Family of East Sussex 1570-1720 tells of this William Wimble. Apparently, a William Wimble ran an alehouse in Hastings and was associated with the “Mayfield gang,” a local smuggling group. Collins believes this man to be James Wimbles uncle, William Wimble “of Pyes.”
The death of James Wimble, Sr. might also help to explain the Wimble sons’ change in vocation from yeomen to mariners and “brickmakers.” Undoubtedly, Ann had to sell much of the family farm to continue with nine surviving children on her own. Their location on the southern coast of England offered the sea trade, a vocation requiring only a strong back and no experience to young, enterprising men such as James Wimble. Wimble, likely found repeated work as an angler or sailor, learned the trade from his youth and finally constructed his own vessel.
Thomas Wimble must have been the family’s savior. He, alone, remains in the records of All Saints Anglican Church, as a caring and devoted son, caring for his mother until her death. The erection of stones to honor their memory indicates this. However, this should not detract from the successes of James Wimble. It must be remembered that he was not the oldest son, and therefore, did not expect to be the family caretaker. Young Wimble, raised in a coastal environment as free and exciting as the Sussex coast, found that life much too attractive. Many local seamen found smuggling a nearly honorable tradition that obviously caught William’s eye as well.
Whatever the drive or inclination, the “brine” in the blood belonged to young James Wimble. He leaves Hastings in 1718 for a life as a merchant in the Caribbean. From there, he found the value of the naval products of Carolina and began trading them amongst the islands in the Bahamas and Antigua.
On a trip to Boston, he met the daughter of a weaver in Boston, Mass. Rebecca Waters, the daughter of William Waters and his second wife, Rebecca Worthylake, married Wimble March 26, 1724 in a ceremony performed by Dr. Tim Cutler in Boston.[vii] The call for a settled life attracted Wimble for, at least, a short time. He purchased land in the Bahamas. Soon, he owned land in Chowan Precinct, N. C. He also bought numerous properties in Boston. His wife and family, which quickly arrived, settled permanently in Boston and Wimble made that the base of his merchant trade.
Five days before Christmas in 1724, his son, James, was born. A little over a year later, in January 1726, William came. John came in 1733, Thomas in 1735. John died in 1736 and James and Rebecca gave that name to a fifth son in 1737. There are no known daughters. The gap in the birthdates of William and John are no accident, being a period of strife for the Wimbles. James and Rebecca’s child, John, dies before his third birthday. It is interesting to note that their last child was named John also. While this practice is somewhat common among eighteenth-century aristocratic families, John’s name may be due more to the fact that James’ oldest sibling, John, also died young. Perhaps, James Wimble found the loss too great and gave the name to another to carry on the memory.
The strife-filled period in the Wimble’s life began on a routine voyage to the West Indies. May 7, 1728, while bound for Jamaica “with produce of N. Carolina,” his ship and cargo were taken by a Spanish privateer from Cuba, off the island of Hispaniola. The governor of the Bahamas sent a man of war to demand reparations for fifteen different English vessels captured by the Spanish, one of which was Wimble’s. The Spanish governor refused to make reparations. Thus, began a long line of Spanish troubles for James Wimble. As a Sussex aristocrat, he writes the Duke of Newcastle, just recently appointed to the position of Secretary of the Southern Department, which administrates the American colonies. Wimble asks Newcastle to "fevour me with a line to setesfy me wether i can recover anything from ye Spand," and, if not that, he desires a colonial post in New England.[viii] Newcastle’s position gave him almost exclusive right to grant patronage in the colonies, at least, on paper. Lord Townshend, as Northern Secretary, dominated Newcastle until he left the office in 1730. Still, Wimble writes to the hometown man of importance, Newcastle, being from Lewes, Sussex.
Newcastle found the distribution of colonial “places” the exclusive domain of Lord Townshend until 1730.[ix] Yet, with South Carolina already under royal administration, the Board of Trade favored the southern port of Charleston. Indeed, the accessibility of the port made it more attractive. Therefore, Newcastle found North Carolina left to him and, in 1730, it, too, became the property of the English government. The Lords Proprietor, exasperated with independent and stubborn North Carolinians, gladly disposed of the colony.
Newcastle now found himself in the strongest position to which a British minister could aspire. Troublesome North Carolinians, though, needed quelling if Great Britain wanted to keep her colony. The Duke of Newcastle needed a map of the region to display the “royal” view of the colony, not Edward Moseley’s Family interpretation of 1733. The Family, a group of South Carolina plantation owners on the west bank of the Cape Fear River had become extraordinarily powerful through a land controversy involving patent frauds. This Brunswick Settlement Scheme clearly threatened Newcastle’s authority in North Carolina. Newcastle began his administrative prelude through his placement of George Burrington as governor but still needed James Wimble’s intimate naval knowledge and trade connections to construct a map of Burrington’s new town on the Cape Fear and to help that town thrive. Today, the town of Wilmington marks the political battleground of 1733.
[i] Cumming, “The Turbulent Life of Captain James Wimble,” 2; Sussex Archaeological Society, Sussex Archaeological Collections Relating to the History and Antiquities of the County Vol. XL (Lewes, England: Farncombe and Company, Limited, 1896), 238; Sussex Archaeological Society, Sussex Archaeological Collections Relating to the History and Antiquities of the County Vol. XLV (Lewes, England: Farncombe and Company, Limited, 1902), 63.
[ii] “America and West Indies: April 1735,” Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Volume 41: 1734-1735 (1953), 402-412. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=72782&strquery=wimble (accessed: 08 April 2009).
[iii] The National Archives, East Sussex Record Office, PEV/85 (October 28, 1721), http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/records.aspx?cat=179-PEV&cid=2-13-3#2-13-3 (accessed June 24, 2009).
[iv] Henry Montague, Sussex Electoral Poll of 1734 (Sue O’Neill, 2000) http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pobjoyoneill/index.htm (accessed June 9, 2009).
[v] Sussex Archaeological Society, Sussex Archaeological Collections Relating to the History and Antiquities of the County Vol. XL (Lewes, England: Farncombe and Company, Limited, 1896), 238.
[vi] “Volume 190: May 3-June 30, 1715,” Calendar of Treasury Papers, Volume 5: 1714-1719 (1883), 104-119. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=85021&strquery=Wimble (accessed: 23 June 2009).
[vii] Jordan Dodd, Massachusetts Marriages, 1633-1850 (Liahona Research, comp.) (Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005).
[viii] “America and West Indies: August 1728, 1-15,” Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Volume 36: 1728-1729 (1937), 166-184, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=72453&strquery=wimble (accessed: 13 March 2009).
[ix] James A Henretta, Salutary Neglect: Colonial Administration Under the Duke of Newcastle (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972), 3.