The ancient family from which the above descended derived its name from the Manor of Cleburne, or Cliborne, in Westmoreland, near the river Eden. The Manor is named in Doomsday Book and the family was for many generations lords of this place, and of Bampton, Candale, and Kyne. The first of the line appearing in the pedigrees is Herve, to whom Henry II granted a moiety of the Manor of Cliborne, and who was father of Alanus de Cliborne (A.D.1216).
Cleburne Hall, Westmoreland, parts of which still remain, was built by Richard Cleburne in 1567, on the site of the old Castle, or "peel," of Cleburne. An inscription over the entrance still gives the name of the builder and the date. Views of the part of the house still standing, and of Cleburne Church, are given in the Magazine of American History, X, 83, &c. In the church are now memorial tablets to William Claiborne, the emigrant to Virginia, and of General Patrick R. Cleburne, Confederate States of America, who was of the Irish branch.
William Claiborne was born about 1587, and is first noticed in June, 1621, when the Virginia Company engaged him to go to Virginia as a (or rather the) surveyor, with a salary of 30 pounds a year, and a house. He probably was also to receive fees. He came to Virginia with Governor Wyatt in the same year (1621). In 1625 Gov. Yeardley appointed him Secretary of State for the Colony and member of the Council; and he held the latter place in 1627, 1629, 1631, 1632, 1633, 1644-5, 1652, 1655, 1658, 1659, and 1660. Richard Kemp was appointed Secretary in 1637, and after him Richard Lee; but in April 1652, the House of Burgesses restored Claiborne to the place, which he held until the Restoration. On April 6th, 1642, the King appointed him Treasurer of Virginia for life - how long he held this office does not appear.
In 1629 he commanded an expedition against the Indians, which defeated them, under their King Candiack, near the present West Point, and he led another force against them in 1644, as in a grant to him in --- for 5,000 acres on the north side of Pamunkey river, the land is described as "running westerly to a point of Land where the said Coll. Claybourne landed the Army under his command, Anno 1644."There is also a grant to Richard Lee in 1648, in which the land, "about six or seven miles up the narrows of Chickahominy river als. York or Pamunkey," is stated to be a neck "where the foot Company met w'th the Boats when they went Pamunkey march under ye Comand of Capt. William Claiborne."
He was appointed a justice and of the quorum of Accomac county February, 1631-2, was a justice of York 1633, and of Northumberland in 1653. He probably lived much in the latter county during his contest with Maryland.
In 1631 Claiborne made a trading settlement on Kent Island in the Chesapeake, and was associated in business with various persons in London; but as the proprietors of Maryland claimed that the island was included in their grant, a long struggle followed, in which force was used on both sides. Several of Claiborne's men were killed and captured, two of his vessels were taken, and he was expelled from the island, incurring a heavy loss.
But on September 26, 1651, he was appointed one of the parliamentary commissioners to subdue Virginia and Maryland, and in the next year expelled Lord Baltimore's Governor, and obtained control after a dispute of twenty years. In 1654 the Claiborne party totally defeated the Baltimore party, led by Governor Stone (who had again resisted) and remained in undisputed control until Baltimore had made his peace with Parliament in 1658, when Claiborne disappears from active participation in Maryland affairs.
As late as 1675, he petitioned the King for redress for the many losses and injuries he had received from the Calverts, but without avail. In the Northampton records, April 1653, is an order referring to the "Worshipful Coll. Wm. Claiborne, Esq., Deputy Governor" - an office which has not been elsewhere noticed; but to which he must have been appointed in Bennett's administration. In the English State Paper office are many documents relating to the long controversy over Kent Island. William Claiborne is said to have died about 1677. Modern investigation has removed the stigma of "rebel," "evil genius of Maryland," &c., &c., and shows that his long and active career was instead worthy of admiration.
William Claiborne has been the subject of several biographical sketches. Rev. S.F. Streeter left a MMS "Life and Colonial Times of William Claiborne," which has been the basis of a paper on the subject by Mr. J.M. Allen, in New Eng. Hist. and Gen. Reg. xxvii, 125-135. And in the Magazine of American History x, 83-100, is an article on Claiborne, and the Claiborne family, by the late John Esten Cooke, which contains a number of interesting portraits, views, engravings of seals, arms, &c.
It has been several times stated in print that William Claiborne married in London (in 1638 some are even particular enough to state) Jane Buller, but this may also be considered doubtful. In November 1647, a grant of 700 acres in the corporation of Elizabeth City, was made to "Elizabeth Claiborne, the wife of Captain William Claiborne, Esqr., his Majesties Treasurer of this Colony of Virginia," for the transportation of fourteen persons, whose rights had been assigned to her by her husband in nature of a dower, according to an order of court June 11, 1644.
It is, of course, possible that Col. William Claiborne married twice. If he married Elizabeth about the time that the dower was given, in 1644, she could hardly have been the mother of the eldest son, who as "Captain William Claiborne" received a grant in 1657. Contrary to what has been frequently stated, infants could, and frequently did receive grants, but they were not captains of militia in boyhood.
The tradition that Col. Claiborne married a Buller can perhaps be accounted for by a statement in a letter from Governor Leonard Calvert to his brother, Lord Baltimore, written in 1638 (to W.H. Browne's "George and Cecilius Calvert," p. 68, &c.) in which he says that on Kent Island John Boteler, or Butler (he writes the name in each way), William Claiborne's brother-in-law, was at first disposed to resist the Maryland authorities, but afterwards submitted. Mr. Browne says that Boteler was appointed by Calvert commander of the militia of Kent Island, and held various offices of trust in the colony until his death in 1642.
It appears from Hotten's "Emigrants," that in 1626 William Claiborne owned 200 acres at Archer's Hope, 500 at Blunt Point, and 150 at Elizabeth City.
The following grants to him appear in the Virginia Land Records: (1) Coll. William Claiborne, Esqr., 5,000 acres between the Great and Little Wicomico rivers, Northumberland county, Jan. 5, 1652;
(2) Coll. Wm. Claiborne, 5,000 acres on the north side of Pamunkey at a creek called Tanks Madoquine "running westerly to a point of Land where the said Coll. Claiborne landed the army under his command in Anno 1644," and bounded on the west by Cohoake Creek;
(3) Coll. William Claiborne, Secretary of State, 750 acres in Northumberland Co.;
(4) Col. William Claiborne, 1,600 acres adjoining his plantation of Romangock, on the south side of York river; over against the land of Francis Burwell (and others) - 500 acres of this is march land, commonly called Cohoke; Dec. 24, 1657.
1. William Claiborne had issue;
4. Leonord, who settled in Jamaica, W.I., and died there in 1694. He married Martha ---, and left two daughters (a) Katherine, who died in 1715, aged 34 years, wife of Hon. John Campbell, of Inverary, Argyleshire (of the family of Auchenbrack), and (b) Elizabeth. Mr. Leonard Claiborne had a grant of 3,000 acres on the Mattopony, April 1st, 1672 granted; 5. Jane, who, on February 10, 1657, as "Mrs. Jane Claiborne, Spinster," received a grant of 1400 acres in Northumberland county - 750 of which had been granted in 1653, to her father, Col. Wm. Claiborne. She married Col. Thomas Brereton, of Northumberland county, and died before May 20, 1671 (Northumberland Records).
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2. Lieutenant-Colonel William Claiborne, of King William county, received the following grants: 5,000 acres between Mattopany and Rappahannock rivers, and on both sides of Piantetank Swamp, December 24, 1657; 1,000 acres in New Kent, June 12, 1658; 4,000 acres on the Piantetank river, March 26, 1661; 1,400 acres in New Kent, 1672; and 1,000 acres in New Kent, February 24, 1674-5. Each of these grants is to Captain Wm. Claiborne.
It was more probably he (instead of his father) who was a member of the House of Burgesses from New Kent, 1663-66. He is stated to have distinguished himself in service against the Indians, and there was formerly on record at King William Court-House, a certificate of his valor, dated March 29, 1677, and attested by Nathaniel Bacon, Philip Ludwell, Ralph Wormeley and Richard Lee. In 1676 he was appointed (with Major George Lyddall) to command the fort at Indiantown in New Kent, and in the same year (January, 1676) he sat on the court-martial to try the rebels. His wife was probably named Elizabeth, as in 1665 there is a grant to Mrs. Elizabeth Claiborne, Junior, 1,000 acres in the freshes of York river.
Children: (a) William; (b) Ursula, named in her brother's will, 1705, married William Gooch, and had at least one child, Claiborne Gooch; (c) Mary, named in her brother's will, 1705.
3. Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Claiborne, of King William, was born August 17, 1647, died October 7, 1683. In 1665 he received a grant of 500 acres New Kent county, and in 1677, 1,500 acres on the "upper fors of York river." He also served against the Indians, and is said to have been kelled by an arrow (Campbell's History of Virginia, p. 324.) He was buried at Romancoke, King William, where his tomb remains bearing the arms: Arg Cheverons interlaced in base, a chief of the last; and the following inscription:
"Here Lyeth Interred ye body of
Son of Col. Wm Claybourne
He departed this life ye 7th day of October Anno Domi
Aetatis Suae 36
1 Mo : & 21 D."
He married Sarah (Fenn), and after his death she married secondly Thomas Bray. There is recorded in York county, 1681, a deed from Thomas Claiborne and Sarah his wife, and in the same year Mr. Thomas Bray, of New Kent, is plaintiff in a suit in York. There was a suit in Essex 1701, by Sarah Bray, executrix of Lt. Col. Thomas Claiborne. Mrs. Bray, widow of Capt. Thomas Bray, of New Kent, founded a scholarship at William and Mary College. She was, doubtless, this Mrs. Sarah Bray.
Children: (Claiborne): (a) Thomas; ((b) Elizabeth.)
(Source: Virginia Land Records, From The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, the William and Mary College Quarterly, and Tyler's Quarterly, published in 1982.)