Nicholas Martiau, a French Huguenot, had lived some period of time in England before being naturalized as an Englishman and sailing for Virginia. He had been born in France according to his own statement in the records of the General Court of Virginia and furthermore is believed to have been a protestant as the records of the French Huguenot congregation in London show him to have been a godfather at a baptism there in May 1615.
Martiau arrived in Virginia in 1620. The records of the Virginia Company show that by February 1620 the colony had requested that engineers be sent out who were capable of raising fortifications. The Earl of Huntington, who had an interest in lands in the colony, engaged at his own expense two engineers, one a captain from the low countries named Benjamin Blewitt and the other a reputedly skilled French captain who had been long in England, Nicholas Martiau. Huntington specifically engaged them to act as his attorneys in establishing his lands in Virginia. To that end he saw that Martiau was naturalized, a necessary qualification to own land, vote, or hold office in the colony, and he also provided him with a life interest in some lands of the Huntington estate.
Martiau arrived on the Francis Bona Ventura in August 1620. After the Indian massacre in March 1622 he commanded a company which sought out and fought the Indians. For a while after that he was at Falling Creek where the colony's iron works had been destroyed and the population devastated in the massacre. From there in 1623 he testified to the exemplary services of Doctor Ed Giften. In 1623 he was a member of the House of Burgesses that signed the completed draft of the First Laws made by the Assembly in Virginia. By the time of the census of 1624, Blewitt was no longer in the Virginia records and Capt Nicholas Martiau of Elizabeth City was the Earl's sole attorney in Virginia. In 1625 he appears in the muster as Captain Martiau, age 33.
In March 1623, the Commissioners sent from London to investigate conditions in Virginia questioned where the colony should be fortified, and received from the Assembly the answer that the best defense against Indians would be a 6 mile palisade from Martin's Hundred to Chiskiacke, the future site of Yorktown. In 1630 Governor Harvey and the council voted lands for those who would settle in the first two years in Chiskiacke and upon completion of the palisade Martiau was among those who moved their families to Chiskiacke. In 1632 as a burgess from Chiskiacke and the Isle of Kent, he signed the petition to the crown for confirmation of the title to all of the colonists' lands. Martiau's plantation eventually included 1300 acres among which is the site of Yorktown today.
As a prominent public figure Martiau appears frequently in the records thereafter. He was elected burgess from Chiskiacke and the Isle of Kent in 1632 and was a justice of York County from 1633 until his death, often holding meetings of the court in his home. In the prelude to the famous "Thrusting out of Sir John Harvey", a challenge to autocratic rule, Nicholas Martiau was one of three speakers who by their opposition forced the governor to return to London to report to the king. At two other times occasions arose requiring Martiau to prove his loyalty to the crown: in 1627 he was required by the General Court to take the "Oath of Supremacy", and in 1656 it was recorded in Northampton County that "Captain Nicholas Martiau obtained his denizenation in England and could hold any office or employment in Virginia."
Little is known about Martiau's wife. In a letter dated December 1625 written in Elizabeth City and addressed to the Earl of Huntington Martiau announces himself as a husband and a father of "little ones". His wife, Jane, of unknown surname had apparently arrived on the Sea Flower in 1621, then been married to Lieutenant Bartley, and widowed by 1625. She in turn appears to have died before 1640. There is some supposition that there had been a first wife before Mrs. Bartley.
There was a third marriage before November 1646 to a widow, Isabella Beech, who apparently died before Martiau died about 1657. Nicholas Martiau was survived by three daughters of his second marriage: Elizabeth married to Colonel George Read, Mary married to Colonel John Scasbrook, and Sarah married to Captain William Fuller, the Puritan Governor of Maryland under the Commonwealth.
References: 1. "Nicholas Martiau: The Adventurous Huguenot, The Military Engineer and The Earliest American Ancestor of George Washington", by John Baer Stoudt, Norristown, PA, 1932
History of French Huguenots
The Protestant Reformation began by Martin Luther in Germany about 1517, spread rapidly in France, especially among those having grievances against the established order of government. As Protestantism grew and developed in France it generally abandoned the Lutheran form, and took the shape of Calvinism. The new "Reformed religion" practiced by many members of the French nobility and social middle-class, based on a belief in salvation through individual faith without the need for the intercession of a church hierarchy and on the belief in an individual's right to interpret scriptures for themselves, placed these French Protestants in direct theological conflict with both the Catholic Church and the King of France in the theocratic system which prevailed at that time. Followers of this new Protestantism were soon accused of heresy against the Catholic government and the established religion of France, and a General Edict urging extermination of these heretics (Huguenots) was issued in 1536. Nevertheless, Protestantism continued to spread and grow, and about 1555 the first Huguenot church was founded in a home in Paris based upon the teachings of John Calvin. The number and influence of the French Reformers (Huguenots) continued to increase after this event, leading to an escalation in hostility and conflict between the Catholic Church/State and the Huguenots. Finally, in 1562, some 1200 Huguenots were slain at Vassey, France, thus igniting the French Wars of Religion which would devastate France for the next thirty-five years.
The Edict of Nantes, signed by Henry IV in April, 1598, ended the Wars of Religion, and allowed the Huguenots some religious freedoms, including free exercise of their religion in 20 specified towns of France.
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in October, 1685, began anew persecution of the Huguenots, and hundreds of thousands of Huguenots fled France to other countries. The Promulgation of the Edict of Toleration in November, 1787, partially restored the civil and religious rights of Huguenots in France.
Since the Huguenots of France were in large part artisans, craftsmen, and professional people, they were usually well-received in the countries to which they fled for refuge when religious discrimination or overt persecution caused them to leave France. Most of them went initially to Germany, the Netherlands, and England, although some found their way eventually to places as remote as South Africa. Considerable numbers of Huguenots migrated to British North America, especially to the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. Their character and talents in the arts, sciences, and industry were such that they are generally felt to have been a substantial loss to the French society from which they had been forced to withdraw, and a corresponding gain to the communities and nations into which they settled.
Origin of the Word HuguenotThe exact origin of the word Huguenot is unknown, but many consider it to be a combination of Flemish and German. Protestants who met to study the Bible in secret were called Huis Genooten, meaning "house fellows." They were also referred to as Eid Genossen, or "oath fellows" meaning persons bound by an oath. Two possible but different derivations incorporating this concept can be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica:1. "Huguenot", according to Frank Puaux, at one time President of the Socitie Francaise de l'Historie du Protestantisme Francais and author of the article about the Huguenots in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica:
"is the name given from about the middle of the sixteenth century to the Protestants of France. It was formerly explained as coming from the German Eldgenosen, the designation of the people of Geneva at the time when they were admitted to the Swiss Confederation. This explanation is now abandoned. The words Huguenot, Huguenots, are old French words, common in fourteenth and fifteenth-century charters. As the Protestants called the Catholics papistes, so the Catholics called the protestantshuguenots. The Protestants at Tours used to assemble by night near the gate of King Hugo, whom the people regarded as a spirit. A monk, therefore, in a sermon declared that the Lutherans ought to be called Huguenots, as kinsmen of King Hugo, inasmuch as they would only go out at night as he did. This nickname became popular from 1560 onwards, and for a long time the French Protestants were always known by it."2. The current edition Encyclopedia Britannica offers a somewhat different explanation, although agreeing the word is a derivative of the German word Eldgenosen:
"The origin of the name is uncertain, but it appears to have come from the word aignos, derived from the German Eldgenosen (confederates bound together by oath), which used to describe, between 1520 and 1524, the patriots of Geneva hostile to the duke of Savoy. The spelling Huguenot may have been influenced by the personal nameHugues, "Hugh"; a leader of the Geneva movement was one Besancon Hugues (d. 1532)."
Nicholas(French Huguenot) Martiau *Capt. (1591 - 1657)
is our 8th great grandfather
Daughter of Nicholas(French Huguenot) Martiau and Elizabeth Jane Berkeley
Son of Elizabeth Martin and Col George Reade
Son of Andrew Reade and Unknown
Daughter of Andrew Reid and Isabelle Barr
Daughter of Jean Reid and John Reid
Son of Jean Reid and James Stewart
Son of James Stewart and Phoebe Hinton Cox
Daughter of Noah Stewart and Mary Springer
Son of Mary Lou Ella Stewart and Charles William Lute