British author publishes first biography of 17th century Eastern Shore settler

The Henry Bagwell Story
The Henry Bagwell Story is the first biography of an early English settler on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, who survived shipwreck in Bermuda on his way to the Jamestown Colony in 1609. An English author, writing her first book, compiled his story from historical archives in Virginia and Devon, England.

A first-time English author has released the first biography of Henry Bagwell, an historically important early settler of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Ten years ago, Margaret Rice set out to research the genealogy of her family, the Chappell family of Exeter, who were prominent during the reign of Elizabeth I. The trail took an unexpected turn. Rice’s discovery of a marriage of Johane Chappell to a David Bagwell and the birth of Henry Bagwell in 1589 led to the previously untold story of Henry’s voyage to the new colony of Virginia in 1609, on the Sea Venture, the flagship of the fleet called the “Third Supply.”   

The fleet was sent by the newly formed Virginia Company of London to bring aid to the beleaguered Jamestown settlers. But the Sea Venture, with most of the leaders for the new colony, ran aground on the reefs off Bermuda in a fierce storm.  After nine months, the shipwrecked crew and passengers were able to construct two new vessels, and most of them reached Jamestown alive – long after they’d been given up for dead.

Henry Bagwell remained in Virginia. By 1630, he had left the mainland and travelled across the Chesapeake Bay to the Eastern Shore, settling in what was then known as Accomack Plantation. He became a substantial landowner, acquired a stepfamily through marriage to Alice Stratton, and had three more children with her. Henry served as a church warden, a burgess, the first clerk of court on the Eastern Shore, and a tobacco inspector.

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In his Foreword, G. Ray Thompson, professor emeritus of history at Salisbury University, writes: “Although Rice started this project as a family history, it has turned into much more than just a genealogical record…. I suspect Henry Bagwell, if he had had the opportunity to read this work, would recognize himself   in the political, economic, and social interactions of the time.”

The Henry Bagwell Story: English Adventurer, Virginia Planter 1589-1663, is $25.95 (hardcover) and $9.99 (ebook). It is available from independent bookstores on the Eastern Shore; all leading online retailers; and by direct order from Secant Publishing of Salisbury, Maryland at

A Shore Talk interview with Rice can be heard below:


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