The Passmore Chronicles Part Two By Susan Reynolds

The Passmore Chronicles Part Two
A Scholarly paper on the legend of Thomas Passmore Carpenter
By Susan Reynolds

Robert Carpenter and his family are equally illusive.  There is, in fact, a marriage for Robert Carpenter and Susan Jeffrey 10 May 1599 in the Saint Andrew, Plymouth, Devonshire Parish  registers.[12]


There are, however, only two children in those same registers baptized with Robert as their father – Joan baptized on 21 Mar 1599 and William baptized 25 Oct 1602 and buried 30 Sep 1804.[13]

There is no baptism for a Thomas Carpenter in Plymouth – or any other parish I could find – in 1607.[14]  If anyone who reads secretary hand would like to take a look, the registers for that year are below and I would welcome extra sets of eyes in case I missed him. Remember 25 March is the first day of 1599 and 24 March 12 months later is the end of the year. Yes, it’s very confusing. 

It should be noted the registers sometimes included dates of birth but more often not, as the registers deal with Church rites and events, therefore baptism dates are often all that exist unless a burial record or marriage license shows the date of birth. These historical records can easily be cobbled together to form a cohesive story, but there is nothing in them to connect them to a ship owning Carpenter family in Plymouth, in fact, I have yet to find a ship owning family of that name in Britain in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

There is no mention in the records of Jamestown or any shipping records located to date of a Thomas Carpenter within the allotted time frame of 1627-1634. In the seventeenth century, shipping records in Britain seldom listed passengers unless they were convicted criminals, indentures servants, or certain dignitaries. Authorities listed in the Port Books, instead, the cargoes placed aboard ships and their owners, many of whom traveled with their shipment. This was, of course, so the government could collect its share on duties, taxes, and tariffs. A good many of those records exist and are published for Plymouth, fewer exist for Virginia and Barbados. 

In The Original Lists of Persons of Quality; Emigrants; Religious Exiles... Who Went from Great Britain to the American Plantations 1600 - 1700... with Their Ages, the Localities Where They Formerly Lived John Camden Hotten notes one record for the London departure of 20 year-old Thomas Carpenter on January 1635 bound for St. Christopher or Barbados on an unnamed ship - but this could not possibly be Thomas Pasmere Carpenter as Thomas P. was said to be 20 years of age in 1627, making this man much too young.[15] Hotten makes barely a handful of references to the surname Carpenter, almost all of them in the 1630s. He lists a Dixi Carpenter who died in the 1622/3 Indian Massacre at Jamestown on page 190 but no clue as to who she was. According to Daniel Hoogland Carpenter in History and Genealogy of the Carpenter Family in America from the Settlement at Providence, R.I. 1637-1901, Hotten noted “William Carpenter, Alice his wife, and Alice their daughter, aged 4 years, came to Virginia in the ship Sarah about 1623…[and] a Jan de Carpenter, laborer, wife and Child, and Martin de Carpenter, young man, brass-founder, French Wallons, signed agreement to go to Virginia in 1621.” [16] My copy of Hotten does not contain the entries for William and Alice Carpenter and their daughter and nothing indicates the French actually arrived in Virginia.  All other Carpenter entries are in the 1630s and involve Barbados or locations other than Virginia.

   Let’s look at those references cited with the web stories. The reference cited for Thomas’ immigration, Charles Edward Banks’s Topographical Dictionary is filled with information on arrivals in New England. The particular reference for Thomas Carpenter, cited without a page number is actually found on page 177 and is an index entry in a chart regarding Wiltshire which gives the actual reference as Pope. In the key to Banks’s work, Pope is listed as Pioneers of Massachusetts, 1900. The reference is quite short: “CARPENTER…Thomas, carpenter [profession], Amesbury, Eng., came in the James April 5, 1635.” Carpenter attributes this same information to Hotten but again I cannot find it in my copy. [17] In another Banks work, The Planters of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1620-1640, Banks gives a bit larger picture. On page 137 he lists the James as arriving in Massachusetts 3 Jun 1635 with Thomas Carpenter under Thomas Davis and his wife Christian as follows: “Thomas Carpenter of Amesbury, county Wilts, carpenter.”[18]  The James arrived in the colonies The arrival date is 8 years too late, Massachusetts is neither Virginia nor Barbados, and this Thomas was from Wiltshire, not Devonshire. The only thing that matches is his name. This would not appear to be the same man.

Initial postings of the story did not mention the list of ships or Thomas Pasmere Carpenter’s regular and periodic travels between Virginia, Barbados and England or his purported family connection to the East India Trading Company, or if mentioned was kept very low profile. Now that list is used to lend credibility to the story. But even this list has its problems. The Hopewell did, indeed, bring early passengers to Virginia. She was also one of Winthrop’s ships of the Great Migration to New England in 1635. Unless there were two ships named Hopewell –a distinct possibility – she was outbound from England on her way to Bantam and Coromandel, while the Crispian (also listed as Crispiana), along with the London and the Advice Frigate, was on her way to Surratt on 25 Mar 1640, according to records of the East India Company. [19] It is entirely possible both ships sailed west to go east and stopped in Barbados and Virginia on the way (or on the return voyage), but this seems unlikely and is not mentioned in the log. Additionally, it would appear the Carpenter family did not own all – if any - these ships. Success, Hester, and Goodfellow, were regular East India Company ships. Arabia Merchant was owned by Joseph Marks and was a New Company ship (the second East India Company). Advice Frigate was owned by Sir Jonathan Andrews and immediately taken for East Indian Company service when she was launched in 1700. Mocha Frigate made only one trip for the East India Company but was better known for her association with Captain William Kidd. [20] She was a famous and feared pirate ship. This list in no way validates the Carpenter family as ship owners, nor that the ships were owned by the Carpenter family. There IS a Carpenter connection to the East India Company. Named in the charters are investors Thomas and George Carpenter, but other than names, there is no way of knowing whether they were of the Plymouth Carpenters or not. If there is documented proof, would someone please share it?

The claim is also stated that Thomas Carpenter made regular trips to Barbados where his family had banking connections. It is unclear exactly what might be meant by this. The modern term infers the existence of a bank and hard currency including all manner of transactions with such. According to the Central Bank of Barbados, this was not the case:

The first settlers in 1627 brought prevailing English monetary systems with them, but there was very little actual money in the island.  For a long time, cotton, tobacco and sugar were legal tender. 
It was forbidden to export coins from Britain, and the English would not permit the colonists to mint their own.  As a result, a wide variety of Spanish and Portuguese colonial coins were circulated in the West Indies. 
However, complaints about the shortage of circulating money in the islands continued.  In an effort to keep the existing coins in the island, the colonial government deliberately over-valued the coins in circulation.  The values of these coins were fixed at an official rate from time to time.  They were not finally withdrawn from use until 1893. 
The lack of locally produced currency in Barbados, as in the other British islands, forced the payment of salaries, debts and purchases of land, first in tobacco and later in sugar. 
Many commercial transactions were conducted on a credit basis, with cash only being used occasionally to settle accounts.  Nevertheless, there was often not enough coins, nor enough change, in circulation.  Various attempts were made to deal with this problem. 
Towards the end of the 17th Century the silver “Real” or “Piece of Eight” was the dominant coin in use. It would have been worth about four shillings and two pence in Britain, or six shillings in the West Indies.  A mixture of British, Spanish, Dutch, French and Portuguese coins were also used. 
Before 1705 gold coins were treated as multiples of the “Real”, and derived their value from the currency value of this silver coin.  In Barbados, although the dollar remained the normal standard of value, its rating was tied to the value of the gold. 
In 1706 a bank was established to remedy the deficiency of gold and silver coin by a paper money currency.  However, the population deeply resented being “deprived “of gold and silver and given “worthless” paper.  It would be over a century before paper became legal currency.21 

This account of the state of banking in Barbados would not seem to lend credence to the claim of banking connections in the islands. 

 What, then, of the rest of the story?  Did Thomas Carpenter really register a lease for 10 acres of land only to abandon the lease within months and run away to live with the Indians?  This would surely be recorded in the records of the colony.  Much smaller and less important matters are found in those records, but not this one.  There is no record stating Robert Marshall received the lease abandoned by Carpenter.  And what of the census cited above?  The citation states 1628 census, however, the end of the citation states the year as 1607.  It cannot be both.  The name Thomas Carpenter does not appear on the Jamestowne Society’s Register of Qualifying Seventeenth Century Ancestors.[22]   Being a leaseholder would qualify him as a landowner, making his descendants eligible for membership in the society, which has extensively researched the records of Jamestown and listed all residents found in those records.  A census for 1628 is listed in several publications, but searches for that document have failed to produce results, therefore that point can neither be legitimated nor contested.    There is, in fact, nowhere a mention of Thomas Carpenter of Jamestown in any of the other records.   

Intermarriages with the Indians were actually quite rare in early Jamestown. Neither side was particularly trusting of the other. Pocahontas (Matoaka) was the famous exception, but her marriage to John Rolfe is one of the few recorded for posterity. Thomas Pasmere Carpenter’s story names his Shawnee wife Pride. This would, at best, be an English translation and approximation. Pride does not conform to most Indian naming traditions; it is more akin to the naming traditions of the Puritans, and perhaps the Anglicans of the time. This does not necessarily signify, but it is curious for this time period. The various Native American languages – no people do not speak Indian, they speak Iroquois or Cherokee or Shawnee, etc. – contain no words for abstract concepts such as love, hate, or pride. Native Americans certainly felt these emotions but had no specific words for them.

There is also no mention in any chronicle of those early years, of the Shawnee in or around the colony. There were other tribes, but no Shawnee, and they never appear on John Smith’s very detailed map. There are also no mentions of the Cherokee by any known name for them around Jamestown.

What does correspond with the story is the alliance of the Cherokees with a band of Shawnees around 1660. The Cherokees allowed a band of Shawnees to remain in their territory for a short while during that decade as a buffer against other tribes, giving the band sanctuary after having been rousted by whites. Here again, though, the story diverges with history. It is said Carpenter and his family were allowed to move deeper into the Cumberland basin area of Tennessee. There they built their first village. Thomas Carpenter died at Running Water Village in Tennessee and was buried more than 100 miles away at The Great Mound, Nikwasi, in Franklin County, North Carolina.

There are some historical problems here, the first being neither Tennessee nor North Carolina existed in 1660. What is now Tennessee was in either the Province of Carolina or what became known as the Southwest Territory until statehood in 1796 when it became Tennessee. Virginians would also argue it was all or in part in Virginia Colony. North Carolina was the Province of Carolina at the time which was not divided into north and south until 1729. While this might seem pedantic, getting the geography and historical names correct is necessary to validate the account. It makes an enormous difference when trying to locate the records to legitimate or refute the narrative. According to the State of Tennessee, the Cherokees established Running Water Town (Village), also known as Tuskigagee - and by a variety of phonetic spellings - sometime in the 1770s when Dragging Canoe and his followers split with the main body of the Cherokees and established what became known as the Chickamauga towns. These towns ranged from south and a little east of present day Chattanooga, Tennessee, into the northwestern corner of Georgia and into the northern portion of modern Alabama. [23] If this is, in fact, true, Thomas Carpenter did not die at Running Water Village, and it is highly unlikely that he was buried somewhere as sacred to the Cherokee as Nikwasi, a week’s journey or more away from his home. One must also remember the story states Thomas Pasmere Carpenter died in 1675, nearly a century prior to Running Water Town’s foundation.

Additionally, no stories of the Carpenter family appear in Cherokee oral or later written traditions. The European traders are known and the families of those who married into the Cherokee are well researched and documented. Are there gaps? Certainly. The Cherokee had only oral traditions until Sequoyah created his Syllabary in the 1820s except in the intermarried families. Even then, there are accounts in local histories, letters, records of the various colonial governments and missionaries, but none that mention the Carpenters. The Moytoy line, however, has no “records” of Carpenters until this story began to appear in the later twentieth century.

One would think if the Carpenters became thriving, successful traders and produced the likes of Amadoya Moytoy there would be some mention of them somewhere. Yet the only references come in recent years based on claims of family journals in the possession of an undesignated Carpenter family in England that no one is allowed to see. If no one is allowed to see them, how do we know they exist and how do we authenticate what is in them or their age? We cannot and, until such time as they are released and authenticated, the story must be viewed as fiction. No versions of the story appear in any known, reputable Cherokee studies or official accounts or in the research of known and documented Cherokees. They appear in the unvalidated accounts of those who wish with all their hearts to be descended from this famous man, mostly those who wish to be Cherokee but cannot find the proof their hearts desire. It has proved impossible to prove the existence of Thomas Pasmere Carpenter in anything other than folk tale, the makings of a great novel, but not a reputable account. 

Link to part one

Link to part three

Inline citations:

[13] "Church of England, Devon Baptisms Parish Register 1589-1850, Parish church of St. Andrews Plymouth; Baptisms, 1618-1720," Find My Past, accessed 5 June 2016 (

[14] ibid. 1607

[15] John Camden Hotten, The Original Lists of Person of Quality; Emigrants; Religious Exiles;...Who Went from Great Britian to the American Plantations 1600-1700...with Their Ages, the Localities Where they Formerly Lived...(London, England : John Camden Hotton, 1874) 38-39.

[16] Daniel Hoogland Carpenter, History and Genealogy of the Carpenter Family in America: From the Settlement of Providence Rhode Island, 1637-1901-Primary Source Edition, Jamaica, New York : The Marion Press, 1901)1.

[17] Charles E. Banks, Topographical Dictionary of 2885 English Immigrants to New England 1620-1650 (Philadelphia : Elijah Ellsworth Brownell, 1937) 177., Charles Henry Pope, The Pioneers of Massachusetts, A Descriptive List Drawn From the Record of the Colonies, Towns and Churches, and Other Contemporaneous Documents, (Boston : Charles Henry Pope, 1900) 89., and Carpenter, 5.

[18] Banks, Topographical Dictionary, 137.

[19] K.N. Chaudhuri, Emergence of International Business 1200-1800: English East India company V4 (The Rise of International Business), (London, England: Routledge, 1999) 230.

[20] Andrea Cordani, "East India Company Ships Index," East India Company Ships, accessed 5 June 2013, (

[21] "Students Center Money: Bits and Pieces," Central Bank of Barbados, accessed July 8, 2013, (

[22] The Jamestowne Society Register of Qualifying Seventeenth Century Ancestors, (Richmond, Virginia: The Jamestowne Society, 2004) 4.

[23] "Native American," Southeast Tennessee, July 10, 2013, accessed July 10, 2013, 

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