John Willoughby

John Willoughby was a man of influence and large estate, one of the oldest families in Virginia. He was county-lieutenant of Norfolk  and chairman of the Norfolk County Committee of Safety 1774-5, but when Dunmore appeared with an armed force in Hampton Roads, Willoughby’s conduct became a subject of investigation by the Convention. [ref: For Willoughby’s arrest and forced removal, Revolutionary Virginia, vol. V, 141, 142, 207, 369-71]. On Dec. 21st, 1775, he made a petition claiming that Col. Woodford had directed him to appear before the Convention for inquiry into his conduct.  He asserted that  during “the unhappy disturbances… very unfavourable and injurious reports have prevailed against him, representing himself as inimical to the interests of his country, of which he hopes honourably to acquit himself.” He did so, with the  Board of Inquiry agreeing that “Willoughby has never borne arms on the side of Lord Dunmore, or encouraged others to do so, but has generally behaved as a friend to America.”. [ref: The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Y June, 1894 (Vol. 1) pp 449-450



Willoughby  came under strong suspicion as a Loyalist again in April 1776 when he was required to move at least thirty miles away from the shore. To enforce submission, the Committee of Safety ordered Willoughby’s slaves to be taken by the militia.   Two years later, his son attempted unsuccessfully to get compensation from the Virginia legislature, claiming that the punitive actions of the Patriot Committee of Safety had forced his late father’s entire property of 87 men, women and children to run away to Lord Dunmore.  Other evidence in the minutes of the Committee of Safety and the Virginia Gazette suggests that the defection of Willoughby’s slaves actually occurred in May, when a British war ship, H.M.S. Roebuck, was in the vicinity of Willoughby’s Point and that Willoughby had personally taken his property to Dunmore for safekeeping. Early in May, the Board of Inquiry reported an altercation between the militia and Willoughby concerning his slaves with a boat.   [ref: Court of Inquiry, May 6 1776 reprinted in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol 15 1907-8 , 411-412]  The Virginia Gazette reported on 10 May that ‘Col. John Willoughby, of Norfolk county, with his son, and between 60 and 70 negroes, have gone on board Lord Dunmore’s fleet.  This old gentleman some months ago acted as lieutenant of his county under a commission from Lord Dunmore; but pleaded in his justification, that he had been compelled to receive it, and to take the oath prescribed by his Lordship.  Some witnesses appearing in the old man’s favour, the last Convention were pleased to restore him to the former good opinion of his countrymen; and now in requital for such kindness, has voluntarily and without any compulsion, gone over to our enemies, thereby making himself a vile apostate and black traitor.’  [ref; Purdie’s Virgina Gazette, May 10 1776] His son John Willoughby Jr disputed this report..

Whether of not Willoughby himself went over to Dunmore he did not say. Soon after, the old man died at his plantation at Willoughby Point. The quixotic petition for compensation from his son and heir was probably a strategy to dispel any suggestion of the family’s collusion with the British.  [ref: The Willoughby petition can be found in Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (Richmond, 1827), 55.] In the petition he listed these people:
FEMALES:
Plana 55 – 1 girl
Nancy 46—4 girls
Mary40 — 2 girls 2 boys
Judy 28— 3 girls 2 boys
Lucy 25 —1 girl 8 boys
Keziah 23 —3 boys
Cate 30 —2 girls 1 boy
Rachel 25 —4 boys
Easter 27 —4 boys
Sesise 23 —1 girl
Jenny 42
Lindah 27 —2 girls 2 boys
Manda 25 —3 boys
Dinah 26— 2 girls
Lydia 26 —2 girls 1 boy
Abby 29 —3 boys
Beth 23 —1 girl
Jenny 30
Jessie 16
Nell 25 —2 girls
Peg 18

MALES:
Saser 60 (sawyer)
Toby 54
Ned 44
Peter 37 (half carpenter)
James 35 (shoemaker)
Robin 24 (sawyer) Bob 3
Charles 24
Glasgow 21
Wills 21
Anthony 19 George 18
Jacob 20
Isaac 16 
Brister (sawyer) 20
Moses 25 (house servant)