Katherine St. Leger – Culpepper Saga

Culpepper_1This is the third installment about the people and places in my upcoming series, The Culpepper Saga. You can read the first and second installments here and here.

Katherine St. Leger’s relationship to the Culpeppers is a little hard to explain, so bear with me. She was born in 1602 and was the daughter of Warham St. Leger who was a ship captain and sailed on expeditions with Sir Walter Raleigh. Since her father was absent most of the time, she lived with her grandmother, Mary St. Leger, and her step-grandpa, Alexander Culpepper.

Alexander Culpepper had no children and married the St. Leger widow when he was thirty-three years of age. She was quite a bit older than him and was probably already done birthing children by then. That being said, Alexander loved his step-granddaughter, Katherine, and raised her as if she was his own, actually naming her as his daughter in his will.

When Katherine was twenty-six years old, she married Thomas Culpepper, Alexander’s nephew. Thomas was the son of John Culpepper, whom we call Johannes in the book because there are way too many Johns. Johannes was Alexander’s brother. Johannes had two sons, John (our hero) and Thomas. Thomas married Katherine. Did you catch all that?

Katherine and Thomas grew up as cousins, but they really weren’t. Try explaining all that in a book. Go ahead. I dare ya. You’ll have to read the book and see how the heck I did it. 🙂

So, now that you have a slight grasp on who Katherine is, here’s a snippet from the first book, “I, John Culpepper.” Thomas and John are very close, but John has always felt Thomas was their father’s favorite. Maybe he’s right.


At the conclusion of the first family supper in their new home, Thomas tapped on the rim of his glass to get everyone’s attention.

“Katherine and I are so pleased that you all could join us in our new home. We trust you all had a pleasant journey getting here, and please know that you are welcome to stay for as long as you like. We invited everyone because we have some news.” He gestured for Katherine to stand by his side. “We would like to inform you that Katherine is with child and we are expecting the first Culpepper grandchild.” Thomas beamed like a ray of sunshine.

Johannes rose and patted him on the back. “Thomas, Katherine, we are overjoyed by this news, and let me be the first to wish you a healthy son.” Johannes raised his glass and the gathering followed his lead.

From across the table, John watched the interaction between his brother and his father, and wondered if he would have received the same hearty congratulations if it were him announcing the arrival of the first grandchild. He glanced at Mary and found her staring at him. He smiled faintly, but knew by the way she cocked her head that she recognized something was amiss.


“I, John Culpepper” will be released April 10, 2015.

52 Ancestors #10 Thomas Culpepper


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small, and this week’s theme is “Stormy Weather.”

No one weathered storms like my 10th great uncle Thomas Culpepper, and he was literally caught in “Stormy Weather” during one of his greatest moment.

Thomas was the eldest son of John Culpepper of Feckenham and his wife Ursula Woodcock. He was followed by two sisters, Cicely and Frances, and a brother, John, whom we refer to as John Culpepper the Merchant.

Thomas was born into a life of privilege as his family held vast estates and had worked in the king’s service for generations. When Thomas was born in 1602 in Kent, England, the Culpepper family boasted sixteen living barons and earls.

GreenwayCourtAt the age of nineteen, Thomas entered Middle Temple which was a law school. He was soon called to the bar and became a successful lawyer. He married Katherine St. Leger, moved into the family home of Greenway Court (photo) in Kent, and they started their family.

After King James I died in 1625, King Charles took over, and Thomas was promoted to a colonel in the king’s army. This was one hundred years after the Tudor reign where people had been beheaded for their religious beliefs, but King Charles was making everyone nervous with his religious antics. He married a Catholic princess, appointed a Catholic supporter to the office of archbishop of Canterbury, and demanded the Scots begin using the Catholic Book of Prayer. The people of Scotland, Ireland, and England refused to go back to the age of being charged with heresy. They began meeting behind closed doors and discussing what to do about this tyrannical king.

Parliament rallied an army against the king and in 1642 the English Civil War began. As with the Culpeppers before him, Thomas was a royalist and took the side of the king. Thomas and his friend George Goring, the earl of Norwich, fought bravely against Parliament’s army.

General_Thomas_Fairfax_(1612-1671In May 1648, Thomas and George raised 10,000 men around Kent to fight against Parliament. This was a significant number considering by this time Parliament’s army had split into two factions. The larger was holding down an uprising in South Wales, leaving the smaller group of 6,000 men to defend all of London and its surrounding towns. The royalists were holding the town of Maidstone (Thomas’s hometown located south of London) with a force of 2,000 men. Under the leadership of General Thomas Fairfax (photo), 4,000 parliamentarians marched south to Maidstone to recapture it.

culpepper book 1 cover ideaOn June 1, 1648, in the midst of a terrible storm, Fairfax attacked Maidstone. Fairfax’s men took over a bridge and crossed the Medway River and effectively divided Thomas’s men into two groups. Thomas’s diminished army fought in the heavy rains throughout the night and were backed up by Fairfax’s men, street by street, inch by inch. They moved up Weeks Street and finally retreated into St. Faith’s Churchyard where they fought until well after midnight through the raging thunderstorm. At the first light of dawn, out of ammunition and having nowhere else to go, 1,000 royalists emerged from the church and surrendered to Fairfax’s army.

In return for promising to lay down their arms, the soldiers were released and allowed to return to their homes, but in typical Thomas/George fashion, they didn’t. They regrouped and headed north to seize London, but they found the city’s gates closed, so they moved further north to George’s hometown of Colchester. Fairfax’s men pursued them and another battle ensued. Colchester held its ground for eleven weeks, but in August 1648, they were forced to surrender.

Throughout these battles, the king was being held prisoner by Parliament, and for the last two years, the royalists suffered defeat after defeat trying to save him and turn the tide of the war. They began realizing their cause was lost, and across the country, the royalists began surrendering left and right.

In January of 1649, King Charles was charged with treason, found guilty, and was beheaded. Following the king’s execution, all of the royalists, including Thomas Culpepper and George Goring, had their property seized by Parliament and many were beheaded or hung.

In March 1649, George Goring, being held prisoner since his loss at Colchester, was charged with treason and found guilty. Facing beheading, his family petitioned for leniency and the deciding vote, cast by the speaker of the house, granted George his freedom. He joined the exiled court of the prince in the Netherlands and became the captain of the king’s guard. When the prince reclaimed the English throne in May 1660 as King Charles II, George was by his side. George Goring died in 1663 in Brentford, just west of London.

Fortunately for Thomas, his brother John was a merchant who owned a ship. John smuggled Thomas, his wife Katherine, and their four children out of England in 1650 and took them to Virginia. Thomas escaped probable beheading in England, but sadly, he died in Virginia in 1652 at the age of fifty.

His son-in-law, Sir William Berkeley the governor of Virginia, wrote about him, “He lost all his estate, life, and liberty in the king’s service.”

*This story is told in detail in my coming book, “John Culpepper the Merchant,” which is the second book in the Culpepper Saga and will be released May 2015.

On This Day in 1877

Annie Blanks CulpepperOn This Day in 1877, a beautiful woman was born. On November 10, 1877, my great grandmother, Josephine Annie Blanks Culpepper, was born in Kemper County, Mississippi to William Henry Blanks III and Martha Lettie “Mattie” Carpenter. She was in the middle of seven children, six of them being girls. Her father was a teenager when the Civil War took place and fought as a private in the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Company H. Her mother was a young lady of fourteen when she lost her own father at the Battle of Stones River on December 31, 1862. I can imagine as parents, they did their best to keep the peace in the household, but there is a distinct possibility they both had emotional scars from the trauma each had seen and faced during the war.

Annie grew up on a farm in Daleville, Mississippi, and with eleven aunts and uncles in the area, one must assume she had plenty of cousins to play with. She witnessed amazing technological changes as home comforts such as indoor plumbing and electricity moved from the nearby city of Meridian to the country, and paved roads reached homes throughout the area at the turn of the century before the Model T made its first appearance in 1908.

culpepper Sam CulpepperIn 1899, she met handsome William Samuel “Sam” Culpepper, and they married when she was 21. She said about him, “Sam was really a handsome man with rosy cheeks, dark curly hair, and teeth as white as pearls.” Sam was described as a kind fellow who always had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. He loved fishing, squirrel hunting, and playing the family’s old pump organ. He was a sawyer by trade and followed the sawmill business, often being gone for weeks at a time. Fortunately Annie and Sam had five boys and four girls between 1900 and 1921, and the boys were taught to run the farm in their father’s absence. He was said to have been a strict but loving father.

culpepper Sam and Annie CulpepperAfter their youngest child married and moved out in 1938, one would have expected they lived out their retirement in comfort, but sadly, Sam suffered from high blood pressure, and his life was cut short by a stroke at the age of 66, on December 10, 1939. Annie never remarried. In her later years, she moved to Mobile, Alabama and lived with their sons who had relocated there.

She passed away at the age of 84 on November 15, 1961. She is laid to rest next to her husband at Mt. Nebo Cemetery in Kemper County, Mississippi.


culpepper annie j blanks headstoneHer obituary is as follows:

Funeral arrangements were being completed today for Mrs. Anne Blanks Culpepper, 84 of Mobile, a former resident of the Martin community who died yesterday at Mobile.

Mrs. Culpepper was a member of the Duffee Baptist Church and had been active in its various organizations until she suffered a broken hip three years ago. Her two daughters are Mrs. Mae Howington of Meridian and Mrs. Aaron Spears of Enterprise. She is also survived by five sons, Joe Culpepper of Susqualena; Earl and Clinton Culpepper, Meridian; Fred and Frank Culpepper, Mobile; and two sisters, Mrs. Woodie Logan and Miss Velma Blanks of Laurel.

The body was to arrive in Meridian this afternoon and will be at Stephen’s. The service will be held at 2 o’clock tomorrow at the Mt. Nebo Baptist Church with Rev. Herman Pilgrim in charge, assisted by the Rev. Vernon Blackburn. Interment will be in the Mt. Nebo Cemetery.

This post is brought to you by On This Day available at Amazon.


On This Day in 1882

culpepper ora wedgeworth wife of Joseph FloydOn This Day in 1882, my great great aunt, Ora Wedgeworth Culpepper was born to Howell Joel “Hobby” Wedgeworth and Martha Morrow in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. She was the youngest of eight children with only one other girl, the eldest.



wedgeworth howell joel hobby and martha morrow, par of ora wedgeworth culpepperPrior to Hobby marrying Martha, he had been previously married to Elvira Hughens. They had one daughter in 1858, and Elvira died in 1860. I don’t know who raised the girl after that, as Hobby went off to fight with the 5th Mississippi Infantry Company K and was captured by Union soldiers at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee (where I currently live) on November 30, 1864. He spent the last six months of the war at Camp Douglas, Illinois as a prisoner of war. His father, Rev. Joel Walker Wedgeworth, went to pick him up after the war ended, and it was said his father didn’t even recognize him because he was so thin. One can tell just by looking at this photo of Hobby and Martha, they were very strict parents.

culpepper joseph floyd

On November 2, 1904, Ora married Joseph Floyd Culpepper, my great grandpa Sam Culpepper’s brother, and between 1905 and 1926, they had eight children, five girls and three boys.



culpepper joseph floyd and ora wedgeworthOra lost her husband to pneumonia on August 1, 1951. She never remarried. She died May 15, 1966 at the age of 83. They are buried at Memorial Park Cemetery, Winston County, Mississippi.


This post brought to you by On This Day.



Saturday Snippet – Culpepper Saga Preview

I usually post blogs about books that are already finished, but I’m having such a good time with my work in progress, I’d like to share a piece of it with you. The Culpepper Saga will be four books about one of my ancestors named John Culpepper.

Culpepper_1John was born in England in 1606. As a young lad he was trained as a lawyer, but he decided to be a merchant instead. He bought a ship and sailed back and forth between the colony of Virginia and England, delivering immigrants to the colonies and bringing back cotton and tobacco. His life wasn’t spectacular, but the cast of characters surrounding him were pretty intriguing, the political and religious climate of his homeland was so volatile, one could lose a head if one wasn’t careful, and the vast expansion of the new world set the stage for quite an amazing adventure. The first installment will be about his childhood, the second about the English Civil War where King Charles I was executed and the royalist Culpepper family scattered like rats, the third about his adventures in Virginia and rise to family patriarch, and the final story will be in his later years during Bacon’s Rebellion and his son causing the Culpepper Rebellion in North Carolina and being charged with treason (good thing daddy was a lawyer!).

culpepper book 2 cover ideaI’ve decided on the title “I, John Culpepper” for the first book.

All that being said, here’s a bit of the scene from the day John was born….


1606, Blackwall, London

“Master Culpepper! Master Culpepper!” the servant boy shouted over the bells clanging from the church steeple. He pulled the scratchy scarf tightly around his neck to ward off the chill as he pushed his way through the masses gathered on the foggy banks of the Thames.

The crowd had been gathering on the wharf for nearly two days to witness the departure of the ships, and they were prepared for a spectacle unlike any they had seen before. When the tide came in, the three ships carrying one hundred forty passengers and sailors would depart England on an exciting adventure. The air smelled of salt and tar and sweat. This was a remarkable place, a magical place, where the preparations were as exciting at the coming voyage. The anticipation in the air was nearly as thick as the fog.

The boy stopped for a moment as a wooden cask was rolled across the cobblestone in front of him. He watched as workers carefully rolled the barrel up the tilted gangplank. He remained frozen in the middle of the bustling crowd, staring at the ship. He had never seen anything so majestic in all his twelve years, and his jaw dropped at her sheer size. She was an enormous castle-like structure, at least eighty feet in length, her belly bulging at the side where the last of the cargo was being loaded in. Crates and boxes were continually being carried up the gangplank, where they disappeared into the ship’s dark interior. The deck above the cargo area was much narrower and the boy imagined that’s where the sailors would remain during the voyage, climbing masts and hoisting sails. Circling the spiderweb of hemp ropes and yardarms, seagulls cawed as if singing along with the rhythmical clanging of a nearby metal object. The boy scanned the scene for the source of the sound and noticed a blind beggar sitting on the cobblestone near the bow of the ship, tapping a stick on a metal bowl.

Behind the ship floated a second ship, nearly as large as the first, and behind that loomed a third. Each hosted its own cast of sailors, supplies, vagrants, and gangplanks. As wavelets gently raised and lowered the vessels, moans of protest arose from the taut ropes, and the weathered wood creaked with each stomp of a sailor’s boot. Nearby, two mangy hounds barked and growled over some fish scraps, bringing the boy’s attention back to his task at hand. Remembering why he had come, he yelled, “Master Culpepper!” He spun around and around looking for the man, weaving between horses, carts, trunks, and sailors shouting commands. He darted in and out of the crowd, making sure he didn’t bump into any wealthy gentlemen, recognizable by their long cloaks adorned with colorful silk threads.

In April, King James had created the Virginia Company, which would finance sailings to Virginia and Plymouth with the aim of settling colonies and profiting from the land’s abundant natural resources. The aristocracy funded the expeditions with the expectation of making an exorbitant profit. The three ships embarking from Blackwall on this day would sail to Virginia and bring back riches. There were rumors of gold, silver, and gems merely washing up on the shore for the taking. If nothing else, there was surely timber to be harvested. The trees in England had long been felled and the rising price of timber would certainly bring the investors a hefty return.

After they finished loading supplies and the morning fog had dissipated, the ships would raise their sails and ride the tide down the Thames. They would enter the English Channel and cross the great ocean and return by summertime.

The boy bobbed in and out of the crowd, searching for his master.

“Who are you searching for, lad?” a man in a ruffled collar asked.

“Master Culpepper,” the boy replied, removing his hat and revealing his dirty blond hair, which was sticking this way and that like a wheat field in a mighty windstorm. He twisted the wool hat in his hands.

“Johannes or Tom?”

“Johannes Culpepper, sir.”

“I saw him down by the front ship—the Discovery—only moments ago. He was standing right on the dock.”

“Thank you.”

The boy nodded, replaced his cap, and shoved through the workers and onlookers toward the front ship. As he passed the first ship, he looked at the name written on her side and sounded out the letters. He couldn’t make any sense of the words Susan Constant, but when he reached the second ship, he could read God…speed. He wondered if the Godspeed was true to her name. If he were to sail, he would rather sail on the Godspeed and get there faster. From what he understood, it was a two-month voyage if the weather was bonny, maybe four months if the ship ran into rough seas.

He had once spent a morning in a small fishing boat and instantly became green with sickness that lasted for days. He didn’t think he would be able to survive the time it would take to sail to Virginia. He gawked at the bow of the Godspeed as he ran past, witnessing a young lad about his age. The sailor dripped with sweat, even in the chill of the damp morning air, as he coiled ropes and folded sails. What a great adventure it would be to sail to Virginia, but alas, the boy would never get to do such amazing things. He was a servant, a gift from His Majesty King James I to Johannes Culpepper. He would always be a servant, but perhaps someday he would be fortunate enough to serve the king. Even though Master Culpepper was good to him, he wished to someday live at court and be somebody. At least he had the slimmest of chances. His sister had been placed in the kitchen of some castle in Wales. She would never be anything more than a scullery maid. Women would never hold a place in society. They were not welcomed on this voyage, either.

He hopped up and down, unsuccessfully trying to look over the crowd. “Master Culpepper!” he called.

A man turned and pointed. “Culpepper is right over there, son.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The boy sprinted in the general direction, and when he pushed through a couple workers conversing on the dock, he saw him.

“Master Culpepper!”

The boy ran up behind Johannes Culpepper and patted the back of his master’s arm, hopping up and down. “Master Culpepper!”

Johannes turned and looked down at the boy, his square jaw set and his blue-gray eyes burrowing into the lad. “What is it, boy? Why are you making such a commotion?”

The boy panted, out of breath from running. “Master Culpepper, m’lady is havin’ the baby, sir!”

Johannes’s face turned red as he glanced around the crowd to see if anyone was eavesdropping. When he saw no one was, he folded his arms across his chest and stroked his beard. “You came all this way to tell me that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very good, boy. You run along home now.”

The boy didn’t move. How could his master not be excited about this news? Did he not want to return home and see his wife and child? Was there anything the boy could say to convince the man to accompany him back to the house?

“Go on. Run along.” Johannes waved the boy off with a flip of his ringed fingers and abruptly turned his back.

“Yes, sir.” The lad backed up, keeping his eyes on his master, wondering what he would tell the governess when he returned home without his master in tow. He had ridden nearly four hours to get to Blackwall this morning, most of it in the dark as the sun had not even risen when he left. He would have a four-hour return trip to think of something. He turned and walked back in the direction from which he had come.


Frances Culpepper Stephens Berkeley Ludwell etc etc

frances_berkleyMy cousin, Frances Culpepper (photo), was born in England in 1634 to Thomas Culpepper and Katherine St Leger. Thomas’s brother, John Culpepper the merchant, was my 10th great grandfather and will play a role later in her life. Frances was baptized 27 May 1634 at All Saints Church in Hollingbourn, where all of the family at that time was baptized. Her siblings were: Mary (1629-30 who died as an infant), Ann (1630-95), Alexander (1631- 24 Dec 1694, Surveyor General of Virginia), and John (1633-74 who often gets confused with John the Carolina Rebel, son of John the merchant).

Culpepper Connections website describes Frances as, “Apart from Pocahontas, Lady Frances Berkeley, the strong-willed, thrice-married and childless Colonial dame who ruled the political roost in Virginia from around 1670 until her death in the 1690s, was the Old Dominion’s most notable 17th century woman.”

Well, doesn’t that make you want to know more about her?

Her father, Thomas Culpepper, was one of the original proprietors of the northern neck of Virginia when the Virginia Charter was formed, transferring control of the colony from the Crown to individual investors. Following King Charles I execution, Thomas moved his entire family to Virginia in 1650 when young Frances was only sixteen. When she turned eighteen, she married the governor of the Albemarle settlement in what is now North Carolina. He was also the owner of Roanoke Island. Yes, where the very first colony disappeared from. His name was Samuel Stephens. Samuel and Frances lived for seventeen years on his 1350-acre plantation called Boldrup in what is now Newport News, Virginia. The plantation land and the house’s crumbled foundation is all that is left today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

SirWilliamBerkeley2Following Samuel’s death in 1669, Frances inherited his large estate and in 1670, she married yet another politician, Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia (photo). They took up residence at his estate called Green Springs (photo) near Williamsburg, Virginia. Today, about 200 acres of the original plantation land is preserved by the National Park Service, which acquired the property in 1966.

green springs


Nathaniel Bacon, T. ChambarsIn 1676 (100 years before the Revolution and the same year her cousin John Culpepper the Rebel was causing problems in Carolina) there was a dispute with the local Indians who had been chased north by militiamen. The Indians raided the Virginia frontier out of anger, hunger, revenge, who knows? Some colonists saw this as an opportunity to isolate or kill the Indians, some saw it as an opportunity for new slaves and lands. It was typical politics with each side rallying for their own cause. A newcomer to the land and the local Virginia Council was Nathaniel Bacon (photo). He asked Sir William Berkeley to form a party to kill off the Indians, but Berkeley refused as some of the Indians were Virginia’s closest allies. In defiance, Bacon raised a group of volunteers to fight the Indians. This led to a civil war of sorts, with Bacon’s followers against Berkeley’s loyalists. It also became a personal vendetta. At one point, tiring of Bacon’s threats, Berkeley bared his chest and dared Bacon to shoot him. After the public display, Berkeley threw Bacon out of the Council, later reinstated him, and then threw him out again. Berkeley ended up being chased out of town by Bacon’s men, who burned down the capital. Bacon died of dysentery in Oct 1676, but the fighting continued for a few more months without his leadership.

Here’s where Frances steps in…


Frances sailed to England on her husband’s behalf to ask King Charles II (photo) for help, and the King, unaware that Bacon was already dead, signed a proclamation for putting down the rebellion. He dispatched one thousand troops to Virginia, along with a commission of three men to find out what the hell was going on. By the time the soldiers arrived, without Bacon’s leadership, the rebellion had died down. The three members of the King’s commission watched Berkeley identify Bacon’s men as traitors and witnessed the hanging of twenty-three of them. Once the commission reported this back to King Charles II, he summoned Berkeley to return to England to explain his actions. As soon as spring arrived, Berkeley sailed to England to plead his case with the King. He became ill on the journey and went directly to his brother’s house in London upon arrival, where he died in July 1677 before getting a chance to tell his side of the story to the King. Frances didn’t receive the news of his death for months.

Here’s where uncle John steps in…

When John Culpepper the Merchant was fifteen years old, he attended Middle Temple, which was a law school. There he met a young William Berkeley, who was not a “Sir” at the time, and the two became fast friends. Though John was trained as a lawyer, he was more inclined to be a merchant, and in 1633, he bought a ship with his brother Thomas (Frances’s dad) called the “Thomas and John.” The ship delivered immigrants to the new world and shipped cotton, tobacco, and the like back to England. This was probably the vessel Frances and her family sailed on in 1650 to move to Virginia. During the rebellion, Frances and William Berkeley needed money to sail back and forth for this rebellion nonsense and they sold off Roanoke Island. Uncle John Culpepper was the lawyer who oversaw the sale of the land to the Lamb family, witnessing William Berkeley’s signature on the deed.

Gov_Phillip_LudwellIn 1680, Frances married her third husband, Col. Philip Ludwell (photo) of the 4,000-acre Rich Neck Plantation. Ludwell had been a chief supporter of Berkeley during the rebellion and also his cousin. Hmm. Frances never relinquished her title however and was known as Lady Frances Berkeley for the remainder of her life. She died around 1695 at the age of 61. Her body is interred at Jamestown Church Cemetery in Jamestown, Virginia.

As for Col. Ludwell, after serving as governor of the Colony of Carolina 1691-94, he returned to Virginia where he served as Speaker of the House of Burgessesin in 1695-96. In 1700, he moved back to England where he died in 1716.