Plaque dedication to Thomas Savage

This is the text of an address by Conway Whittle Sams, who ever he was, at the Jamestown Day, May 13, 1931
. The program cover states "In celebration of the 324th Anniversary of the First Permanent English Settlement in America, May 13, 1607".
The observance was apparently sponsored by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Their name appears on the program cover.

  • Mrs. Granville J. Valentin, chairman of the Memorial Church, Presiding.
  • Exercises begin promptly at 2 P.m. in the Old Church at Jamestown.


    Opening Service Dr. Beverly D. Tucker

    Unveiling of Tablet in Honor of Thomas Savage
    .First White Settler on the Eastern Shore of Virginia
    by Master Thomas Savage and Miss Nancy Savage of Northampton County, Virginia.

    by Conway Whittle Sams
    (The Virginia Gazette. Friday, May 22, 1932)

    Address delivered May 13, 1931, on the Unveiling of a Tablet at Jamestown Island--in Memory of Thomas Savage, First English Settler to locate on the Eastern shore of Virginia.

    "Ladies and Gentlemen:
    It is with particular pleasure that I attend this unveiling of a tablet which is intended to show a due appreciation of the character and service of one of those early settlers from whom so many of us are descended, and to see his name written clearly on the spot with which his early experiences in Virginia were associated.

    Surely we are doing a becoming thing in thus honoring one of our forefathers, and one of the founders of this State and Nation, by putting his name in this building beside those of others who have been similarly honored, and thus making him known all the better to the world at large, and to those more favored persons who visit this hallowed spot, and tread the very ground on which he walked.

    Jamestown is not only an island in the James, with a Church-tower, and graves and trees, but an enchanted spot where the memory of those who once lived and labored and suffered and died here, are to be held in loving and everlasting remembrance by the generations which come after them.

    It is in this spirit that we erect this tablet, and speak of the worthy man whose name it bears. Ensign Thomas Savage, as he is best known to us, later Captain Thomas Savage, was but a boy when he came to Virginia, but he brought with him the name and traditions of an ancient and honorable family.

    The settlement at Jamestown was a military encampment, the place was a Fort, and Thomas Savage was, from his youth, a military man. He was Ensign, that is, the color-bearer, he carried the flag of England in all actions, on marches or on all other occasions. They had another peculiar name also for this officer, they called him the "ancient."

    The rank of Ensign is now disused. It was still in use in America up to the Revolutionary War, and in the English army until 1871. It corresponded to that what would now be second Lieutenant.

    This duty of carrying the flag was highly dangerous as well as honorable. The father of a lady I know held such a place in the Confederate Army. When he was invested with the office, its duties and responsibilities were explained to him. He was told that when the flag was not held up, so the others could see it, follow it, or defend it, he would be presumed to be dead.

    Such, then, was the hazardous post held by our ancestor in any of the conflicts with the Indians, and, to be held, if occasion arose, in any conflicts with the Spaniards, who were ever expected to attack our Colony. The family from which he came traces its descent from Thomas Le Savage, who came over with William the conqueror. His name was preserved in the list of those Normans who survived the Battle of Hastings, of that memorable date, October 14, 1066, when King Harold fell, and the fate of England was decided.

    From this first Norman-English progenitor the historian of the family traces the descent, step by step, of more than twenty generations, coming down to our own times.

    It would appear that the two most important locations of the family were in Cheshire, in England, the county on the west coast with Chester its largest town, and Liverpool near it, across the river Mersey; and, the other, over in Ireland, at Portaferry, in County Down, a little to the south of the North East corner of Ireland.

    The Name "The Savages of Ards," comes from this latter location, Newtonards, written sometimes as two words, being the name of a place about 15 miles north of Portaferry, and both being on Lough Strangford, which is a lake connected with the Irish Sea. And Little Ards is also mentioned.

    This locality is interesting to the speaker also as being only about 35 miles, in a straight line, from Lough Neagh, from whose shores his Whittle ancestors came to this country. They must have known their distinguished neighbors, if you can call people 35 miles away your neighbors, the Savages.

    In this long line of descent were many distinguished persons, a lot of the Viscounts Savage and Earl Rivers are said to have transmitted royal knights, an Archbishop of York; and blood to their descendants. They claimed crusaders, warriors, poets and statesmen among their kindred. Sir Arnold Savage, in Henry 1V's time, 1399-1412, was twice speaker of the House of Commons.

    Sir John Savage, in 1485, commanding the left wing of the Earl of Richmond's army, at the victory of Bosworth Field, when Richard III, was defeated, helped materially to establish the House of Tudor in the person of Henry VII, on the English throne. Afterwards, at the siege of Boulogne, 1492, he was surrounded by the enemy, and refusing quarter, was slain.

    Among the men of letters, were the poet Richard Savage, born 1698; Walter Savage Landor, born 1775; and the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.

    In 1488, Thomas Savage, Doctor of Laws, was appointed to treat for peace with Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.

    James L, returning from Scotland to London was entertained in fitting style by Sir Thomas Savage, at Rock Savage.

    This same Sir Thomas was created Viscount Savage by Charles I. In England the Savages became the owners of extensive estates, held high office, contracted noble alliances, distinguished themselves at decisive political conjunctures, amassed great wealth, attached themselves to successive monarchs, and were advanced to various dignitaries.

    The first settlement of the family in England was at Searcliff in Derbyshire.

    In the work "The Savages of the Ards." it is said of our ancestor, "Another Thomas Savage, born in 1592, and stated to have been one of the Cheshire family, and to have come from Chester, arrived in Virginia with Captain Newport; in 1607.

    This is not exactly right, as he came on January 2, 1608. He came as one of the "First Supply," in the ship named "The John and Francis."

    Now, as we are all Savages, and speaking in the bosom of the family, as it were, it will not be misunderstood, I do wish, since our great ancestor was coming anyway, that he had hurried up a little, and caught one of those first ships. The Sara Constant or the Goodspeed, or the Discovery, so that we could claim him to be one of the "First Planters," as they proudly styled themselves who came first.

    It is said that the name of the "First Planters" are known to have left descendants in the State. Thomas Savage was one of flue first reinforcements, as we might call them. The term they used "The First Supply" sounds strange or ambiguous to us. It sounds as if it might mean the first of all, which it does not.

    We are told of several of the castles, built by, owned by, or commanded by, the Savage, some in England, but most in Ireland. There was Portaferry Castle, the ancient stronghold of the Savages of Portaferry, now in ruins, a large square tower, one corner gone, with stone wails flanking the road leading up to it--a good looking picturesque old ruin. With its tall round tower, the keep, it stood close to the shore of the Irish Sea.

    Then there was Rock Savage, in Cheshire England, the seat of the Earls Rivers, with its two tall original towers still standing sentinel over the scene of it former strength.

    And there was Beeston Castle, near Tarporley, about 22 miles Southeast of LiverpooL Originally a place of great strength, then a ruin until the reign of Henry VIII., then rebuilt; attacked and defended more than once during the Civil War, finally taken by the army of Parliamont and dismantled.

    And Elmsley Castle, in Kent County, about 35 miles East of Greenwich, in good condition, but looking more like an unusually large country house than a castle.

    And Tetbury Close, in Glouchester County, about 18 miles northeast of Bristol, also in good condition.

    And, over in Ireland again, is Lisamoure Castle, a mass of ruins with one very tall piece of the wail still standing. It stood on the shore of Lough Guile, in County Antrim. And, the Castle of Ardigines, on the seashore in County Down, Ireland.

    Here are two large and well preserved square towers with a pond running between them. And, in the same County, Kilclief Castle. All that remains is an unusually high square tower, the rest is in ruins. This was the stronghold of the Fitzsimmons branch of the Savages.

    And, also in County Down, Sketrick Castle, the stronghold of the Savages of Ardkeen, a large square tower built at the water's edge. It takes its name from the island it is on, and is only about 10 miles northwest of Portaferry.

    And, then the few remains of old Ardkeen Castle. The name means "pleasant or beautiful height." Only some of the foundation stones of the walls remain. Near this was the old Church of Ardkeen, where some of the Savages were buried. This castle was in existence in 1182, and was one of the earliest built in Ireland.

    And, Kirkistone Castle, with its square white tower behind a wall ending in low round towers. Then there was Quintin Castle, the handsomest of them all, and Ballygalget Castle, and country houses. One would conclude from all this that the natural habitations of the Savages were Castles.

    The Arms of the Savages are also indicative of distinction. Six black lioncels, that is fierce little lions, three in the top row, two below them and one at the bottom, standing rampant clawing at you, on a field of silver, with their red claws and red protruding tongues, present a truly terrifying appearance.

    Lions, stags, and other such noble animals are only to be found on the arms of the great. Lesser people have to be satisfied with less striking emblems. Gold and silver on the shield are also only for the great.

    The helmet over these lioncels is full faced with its visor up, another mark of distinction, the anus of most people are only entitled to have the helmet with the visor closed, and the helmet in profile.

    And, then the crest, Three are recorded as used or adopted by members of the family. Apparently the earliest one is a terrible looking lion's paw coming out of a Ducal coronet. Another was a unicorn; and the third, symbolic of their control over the waves around some of these old castles owned by the Savages, is a beautiful mermaid riding the waves, her fishy tail waiving gaily in the air behind her.

    Motto: Fortis atque fidelis.

    Burke, in his General Armory, says the Savages of Portaferry, that they were "an ancient Norman family established in Ireland under Sir John de Courey, Earl of Ulster, A.D., 1177."

    Andrew Savage, Esq. of Portaferry, representative of the family, on inheriting the fortune of his maternal grand-uncle, assumed the surname and arms of Nugent, by royal license, in 1812.

    Portaferry House is given as the frontispiece by Mr. Armstrong in both his books, "The Savage of the Ards" and "The Savage Family in Ulster."

    It is a three story building with eleven windows across the front; facing a wide lawn on which a stag was grazing. This house is today the headquarters of the Savage family, though the name Nugent has supplanted that of Savage.

    Many branches of the family are given in this same work; the Savages of Knockadoo, County Sligo, on the sea, on the other side of the Island, a branch of the Portaferry family, descended from Hugh Savage, Esq.. of the City of Dublin,, third son of John Savage, Esq., of Ballyvarley, County Devon, great grandson of Rowland Savage, Esq.. of the Little ards, who died at Portaferry in 1552.

    Another branch is that of Ballymodun, County Dublin, descended thru' the above line, and back to Portaferry. Still another family of Ardquin Castle, County Down, and Lisamoure Castle, County Antrim, coequal with that of Portaferry, believed by some authorities to have branched off at a very early period from that ancient house.

    Sir Thomas Savage, Knighted Oct., 31st, 1601, by Charles, Lord Montjoy, Lord Deputy of Ireland, is another. And several others, all with the same arms.

    To make up for the loss of the name at Portaferry, Clayton Bayly, assumes by royal license the surname and arms of Savage, in compliance with the will of his uncle Francis Savage, Esq., of Hollymount; County Down.

    Another Savage, with these same arms, was Arthur Savage, Knight a Privy Councilor in Ireland in the time of James 1. and Charles 1

    Seventeen other Savage families are mentioned, beginning with the family at Rock Savage and Clifton, Cheshire, England. It was through the mother of Sir John Savage that he inherited Clifton, and then he obtained a grant from Henry V. of the right to the anus of the family. It was in this way that the Crest of the unicorn's head, erased, came into the Savage arms.

    Then there are the Savages who were the Earls Rivers, extinct since 1728, after eight descents Sir John Savage was created a Baronet in 1611. Then there are the Savages of Elmley Castle, with the unicorn, for varient, having a fleur-de-Jis in his mouth.

    The services to the Colony which our Thomas Savage rendered are spread upon the pages of the history of our State.

    The most conspicuous were his being selected as the hostage Captain Newport left with Powhatan, when he took Na-mon-tack, Powhatan's son, with him to show the English people the kind of people who lived in Virginia.

    While with Powhatan, whose affection he gained, he learned the Indian language, and became the interpreter for the Colony in its dealings with the Indians.

    He then extended the English occupation of the country by making his, the first settlement of the Eastern Shore, and later distinguished himself by giving warning to his fellow countrymen on the western shore of an intended Indian uprising at the time of the removal of the bones of Powhatan, then great numbers of them gathered together for that ceremony. This shortly preceded the massacre in 1662.

    It is a pity that we have no picture of him. The personal appearance of many of the men who really did the great work of founding Virginia is gradually coming to the surface, after having been submerged for three centuries. We can look at Lord Delaware, Sir George Somers, Captain George Percy, and more recently, in this country, that man who was said by the Virginia Company of London to have been deserving of the highest honor in that connection--SirThomas Gates. We see a tall, fatherly looking, gentlemanly soldier, with his kindly expression and large nose, long enough to indicate the capacity he is credited with; and we take a liking to him at once.

    But we still lack the pictures of many of the Leaders. Captain Christopher Newport and Sir Thomas Dale, we would like particularly to see, and also Thomas Savage.

    We have reason to believe we would like him, if we had known him. Powhatan liked him, and Deb-e-dea-von, the Indian King over the Eastern Shore, liked him and the Indians generally seem to have liked him; and it was probably on account of this affection which he engendered that he was given the vast grant of the 9,000 acres, Savage's Neck, in Northampton County, which stretched from Bay to Ocean.

    We know that he manned Hannah--, and that she was enterprising and independent enough to bring herself across the ocean. In the "Sea Flower," and that she received her 50 acres of land for so doing. But how small that sounds in comparison to her husband's lordly domain.

    He is believed to have lived on the Cherry Grove Plantation, a part of his big grant, on the Chesapeake side, a place with a beautiful view of the water to the south and west, and attractive and picturesque enough to make anybody want to live there.

    We know that he left a son, Captain John Savage, and a daughter, Dorothy, who manned Col. John Stringer.

    The genealogy of his family I have never attempted to make out, but I have seen two quite lengthy statements of it, but know that even then they were incomplete.

    Thomas Savage dies while still a young man, 32: and his widow married again, into a family whose name was given to one of the pieces of the great Savage's Neck estate, which long remained in the possession of his descendants--"Cugley."

    Though he died so young, his life would no doubt read like a romance if we knew all the events crowded into the few years covered by his active career; and when we consider his close connection with the Indians, what experiences he must have had! Being shot through the body with an arrow was one of them.

    He was no doubt a brave boy, for, as I have always thought of Captain Newport as a true gentleman, whose command was characterized by mildness and consideration. I have preferred to think that he would not have put this little fellow in the position of hostage, in the power of the Indians, and with his life thus at stake, unless it had been with his full and free consent; that is, that he was brave enough to volunteer in this dangerous service for the Colony, which was the beginning of his record of public usefulness."

    When we talk about the Savages, therefore, we speak of a great family, great in position and great in numbers

    There was a large number of them in those twenty odd generations, and there are many of their descendants in this country now, as well as in England.

    The man we honor today, therefore, may well be considered a great progenitor, and we all have reason to be proud of him, and of the fact that many of us are descended from him; and, thankful that it was put into the heart of one of his fair descendants who lives on or near his immense grant on the Eastern Shore, to have him honored in this appropriate and enduring manner, and that her good idea, appealing so readily to others, could be carried out into the present happy conclusion.