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Historical Tidbit
Taken from Michael Upchurch 1624-1681

John Ferrar and the Ferrar Papers1
by Mae Davenport Cox

During the 1650s, John Ferrar and his daughter Virginia corresponded with Michael, and the Ferrar Papers, now available online, include four of Michael Upchurchís letters.

The collection itself began in 1590. Johnís father Nicholas Ferrar was an early member of the Virginia Company of London. His business papers, along with old Mrs. Ferrarís personal writings to her friends and family, were collected and saved. When Nicholas died in 1620, his son John had for a year been deputy to the Treasurer of The Virginia Company of London and thus responsible for the day-to-day administration of the company. In 1622 Johnís younger brother, Nicholas, succeeded him and held the post until the dissolution of the company two years later. Company meetings were held in the Ferrarsí home in London and when the company was dissolved, the business papers remained with the Ferrars.

With the companyís demise in 1624, the family retreated to the 600-acre manor of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire. The Ferrars lived some five miles from the Upchurches in Brington though itís not known if they then knew the family or if their association came later in the 1650s.

Even after he left his post with the Virginia Company, Johnís fascination with America and the Virginia Colony never waned. He was so intrigued that when his daughter was born in 1627, he named her Virginia.

The Ferrars left their manor during Englandís 1642-1645 civil war, but had returned by 1646. Once again Johnís interest in the colony became paramount and he began encouraging migration to it.

  John Ferrarís talents also ran to creating maps as shown  in this hand-drawn one of Virginia in 1651

 To promote his mission, John designed a questionnaire that he sent to settlers of his acquaintance in the Americas. By 1648 he had received enough data from the colonists to write a pamphlet ó A Perfect Description of Virginia ó touting Virginia and urging disillusioned Royalists to seek a better life there. It was during this era that Ferrar made contact with our Michael Upchurch as youíll see in the next several pages.

Through the years, more items were added to the collection as the Ferrarsí archive passed from generation to generation. In 1769, Peter Packard inherited it from his father-in-law, Edward Ferrar, and being childless bequeathed it to Magdalene College in Cambridge, England at his death in 1797.

The collection was sorted and arranged several times for the college. Alan Maycock began the process in the 1930s; it was continued in 1979 by Noel Malcolm, and it was he who realized there were actually four letters written by Michael Upchurch. A decade later, in 1989, Dr. David R. Ransome completed cataloguing the collection, and notified the Upchurch Bulletin editor of the existence of Michaelís four letters.

Today, the meticulously catalogued Ferrar Papers, consisting of over 3,000 items spanning the years 1590-1790, are preserved in the Old Library at Magdalene College in Cambridge, England. We are most grateful to Magdalene College who graciously gave permission to this author to reprint the Upchurch letters in the book, Michael Upchurch 1624-1681.

1 This article about the Ferrar Papers and John Ferrar was written using materials found in Michael Upchurch of Huntingdonshire and Virginia, by Dr. David R. Ransome, in several of the Upchurch Bulletin (UB) publications written by Robert Phillip Upchurch, and from information off the internet. Dr. David R. Ransome graciously edited the article making several changes and additions. His time and efforts to making this article accurate is greatly appreciated.


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