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KATHERINE BANKS
by scottbthompsonsr
 Pieces of Our Past
Dec 06, 2009 | 13124 views | 22 22 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

An American Great Grandmother

 

I cannot imagine the United States of America without Katherine Banks. You ask, who is Katherine Banks? Katherine lived around three hundred and fifty years ago in 17th Century Virginia. So why is this Virginia lady so significant and what does she have to do with the history of east-central Georgia? Well, she has nothing to do directly with the history of our area, but without her, the face of the history of America, and the world for that matter, would have been vastly different. What did she do? Well, I will tell you.

 

Katherine Banks was born into a prosperous family in Canterbury, England in County Kent in 1627, the same year the Massachusetts Bay Colony had been chartered to colonize the eastern coast of North America. Her father, Christopher Banks, was one of England's most influential commoners in his position with the Old London Company, which financed the settlement of Jamestown and Virginia.

 

Sometime in the early 1640s, Katherine journeyed to America, landing in Charles City County, west of Jamestown on the James River. It was not long after her arrival that she married her cousin, Joseph Royall, twice a widower and 27 years her senior. Royall had come to Jamestown aboard the Charitie in July 1622, just after Powhatan Chief Opechancanough had murdered three hundred and forty-seven colonists. Royall survived "the burning fever," which killed even more settlers. By transporting colonists to Virginia, Joseph Royall was able to accumulate a large plantation, which he called "Doghams" after the French river D'Augham, on the James River above Shirley and opposite current day Hopewell, Virginia.

 

Joseph Royall died in the mid 1650s. As was the custom in those days, his wife's dower from his estate passed to her during her widowhood. When Katherine married Henry Isham in 1656, Royall's estate passed to Isham, who immediately added another wing to his residence on Bermuda Hundred.

 

From their luxurious home encircled by tall pines and a extensive English flower garden, the Ishams became leaders of Virginia society. It has been said that Katherine Banks Royall Isham was the wealthiest woman in America. Her father gave her one of the first English coaches to be used in the colonies. It was described as cumbrous and capacious. It held six individuals, three on a seat opposite one another. Two others could sit on stools which faced the doors. Its body was hung high on large springs and was entered by steps. The lining was made of cream-colored cloth. Silver trimmings, cords and tassels accented the exquisite exterior. The driver and the footman sat on the front, while luggage was carried in the rear.

 

As the fall weather began to cool the shores of the James River, Katherine made out her last will and testament. Three hundred and twenty three years ago today, Joseph Royall, Jr. and Francis Eppes walked into the court of Henrico County to probate her generous and loving testament to her children and grandchildren. Her bequests of exquisite and valuable heirlooms paled in comparison to the true legacy of this little known woman.

 

By her first husband, Katherine gave birth to six children, Joseph, John, Sarah, Katherine and two other unknown daughters. With Henry, Katherine had Henry, Jr. and Anne. But by far, her most famous child was Mary Isham. Mary was a much courted belle of Virginia. Suitors swarmed to get a glance of this charming young woman, who played the cittern, a three-stringed early version of the mandolin. Mary captured the heart of the wealthy William Randolph of Turkey Island. Over the next three centuries, the couple would come to be known as "the Adam and Eve of Virginia." Now, you will see why.

 

The Randolphs were the parents of ten children, most notably Isham Randolph. His daughter Jane married Peter Jefferson. They were the parents of President Thomas Jefferson. Elizabeth, daughter of William and Mary Randolph, married Richard Bland. They were the great-great grandparents of the noble and the revered, General Robert Edward Lee. William and Mary's son Thomas was the great-grandfather of John Marshall, the nation's longest serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In point of fact, Katherine's descendants included the wives of both President Jefferson and General Lee. You can see why the Randolphs are the closest thing to royalty that Virginia ever had.

 

I will dispense with all the begats, the great-greats and the removed cousins and simply say that among the most well known descendants of Katherine Banks Royall Isham are presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, first lady Edith Wilson, authors William Faulkner, Willa Cather, Robert Penn Warren and Ray Badbury. Among the most interesting name on the list is Booker Talieferro Washington, a former slave, who became a highly revered educator, author and political leader. There are many, many more. Their names have not yet been entered in the files of ancestry.com. So for now, I will stop here.

 

Why would anyone care about Katherine Banks? She was never memorialized in the annals of early American history. All she did was live a good life and have children. And, that's just the point. All of us have a purpose on the Earth. As we go about our daily lives, we never stop to imagine that our descendants, close and remote, can play a pivotal role in the history of our country.

 

Can you imagine the Declaration of Independence written by someone else other than Thomas Jefferson? Can you imagine the Civil War without Robert E. Lee? Can you imagine the emergence of the Supreme Court without Chief Justice John Marshall? I cannot.

 

Maybe you can conceive of the world of literature without the names of Bradbury, Faulkner, Cather and Warren, but it would have been a far poorer one.

 

I can't envision the world without the leadership and brilliance of Booker T. Washington. I can't envision the world without John F. Kennedy. Would there have even been a man on the moon? Would Richard Nixon have been elected president in 1960? Would their have ever been a war in Vietnam or the turbulent times of the 1960s?

 

I can't imagine a world without these exceptional Americans who descended from the forgotten Katherine Banks Royall Isham. You see, I couldn't visualize these thoughts at all if it were not for Katherine, who was my eighth great-grandmother.

 

Study the history of your family. Learn where you came from so that you can know where you are going. Everyone's families are no more important than any others. It is up to you. Serve your community now. Don't rest of the accolades of your ancestors or wait on the achievements of your remotest descendants. Who knows what they may learn from you?

Comments
(22)
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Chris Carmichael
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August 12, 2014
Katherine Banks is also my 8th great grandmother. Thank you for a well thought out and written piece!
BMBaker
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July 30, 2014
Katherine Banks Royall and Joseph Royall Sr were my 10th Great Grandparents, I descend from their daughter Katherine Royall Perrin. I've researched them for over 7 years, this article is very accurate. To answer a question posted below re: John F. Kennedy - The Fitzgerald's married into the Randolph family, who were descendants of Katherine and her 2nd husband Capt Henry Isham. The Lee's and Carter's descend from them also! I'm planning a trip to VA to see family in the next year and do more research & I'm looking forward to visiting Doghams if I can.
AndrewRoysterRoyall
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July 02, 2014
I have enjoyed reading this article. My line is follows through their first son, Joseph.
belinda royal stuart
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June 15, 2014
I found out the reason for two ls was because the family came from England and while in England the king and queen made them add an l so the people wouldn't get them confused with the Royal family.

belinda royal stuart
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June 04, 2014
I would also like to know why Royal has two l's and when did the second one drop? If anyone has anything they can share with me about the Royalls or Royals, please email me. Stuartbelinda01@gmail.com

belinda royal stuart
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June 04, 2014
I have been researching my fathers family, Royal, for some time. I decided to go to Ancestry.com and found a lot of information. When I read that Joseph Royal (1550-1616), died of black plague in London, England, I googled "black plague London, 1616", and the info about my eighth great grandfather came up. I found it interesting to know there is a plantation that still stands. I would like to visit it one day.

anonymous
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May 24, 2014
http://www.geni.com/people/Ruth-Stapleton/6000000003276594336 I seem to be most closely relato Jimmy Carter, with commonalities in the PErrin, Cocke, Bailey, and Banks families.
Keith Lance
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April 26, 2014
Apart from the Randolph descendants mentioned--including President Thomas Jefferson and First Lady Edith Wilson--most of the other claims about Katherine's descendants in this article are extremely doubtful. Can anyone document the lines from Katherine to any of the others listed? Example: How JFK could have been a descendant is unimaginable, as all 8 of his great-grandparents were born in the early 1800s in Ireland. There is no evidence that any of his Irish ancestors immigrated to the early US or the American colonies ... and back to Ireland at some previous date. RE Bradbury, Carter, Cather, Washington, and Warren--these claims are profoundly doubtful. If the author of the article or anyone else can document these claims, please share your sources.
Jessica Merkel
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November 02, 2013
I'm definitely adding this into the records & am glad to have found this. I am proud to have come from such a strong early settlement family. I have found that I am related to Elizabeth Katherine Banks Royall by her & Captain Henry Isham & she is my 8th great grandmother.
Jackie Brown
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September 23, 2012
Thanks for Posting this. I am going to copy it and put it in my notes. I have all the information but I want your words. Katherine and Joseph Royall are my 9th gr-grandparents through Sarah Jane Royall although some say it is really Jane Sarah Royall who married John Wilkinson.
Malanie Brandt
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September 14, 2012
Katherine and Joseph Royall are my 9th gr-grandparents through their daughter Katherine. I recently had the opportunity to visit Doghams and walk with my daughter and grandchildren over the land of these illustrius ancestors. The wooded area surrounding the house and fields reminded us that it wasn't easy to be the settlers of this wild place, even though they may have had all the amenities that wealth could provide at that time.
tgramful
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June 07, 2012
RIP Ray Bradbury, one of the descendants. KBRI appears to be my 10th-Gr-Grandmother, and I descend from Joseph Royall. I checked out books at the library last week by Bradbury, Cather, and Faulkner. My 5th gr-grandfather filed his will in winchester, VA where Cather was born. I am also related to someone who married a Penn whose descendants settled in Patrick Springs, VA, where Robert warren Penns mother was from. Jimmy Carter may be one of the most famous descendants still alive, and I wonder if Buck Trent the banjo player is one of us. I hope to learn of more descendants in time.
Kaylan Schirmer
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March 03, 2012
Wow, I commented on here today and scrolled down afterwards to see what others had to say, and found out my uncle, Thomas K. Rooney, had commented! Small world, huh?? =]
Kaylan Schirmer
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March 03, 2012
My uncle researched our lineage for nine years. Found we are related to Robert E. Lee, John Marshall, Thomas Jefferson, and, of course, Katherine Banks Royall Isham. Researched deep to find we come from a long line of the Napier's. No one ever believes us until we shove the papers right under their noses, but it does not matter to us. At least we know. Interesting what you can find out about your past generations!
Deonne Porche Reese
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November 02, 2011
Katherine Banks Royall is my 7th Great-Grandmother.
Shirley Raymond
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September 03, 2011
I saw in the article the name Francis Epp, where and how does he fit in with Katherine Banks
Thomas Rooney
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March 31, 2011
Sure wish I knew Kennedy's line? We must be cousins somehow, I am the 10th great grandson of Katherine Banks Royall Isham through the Napier line. We must share common ancestor. I have looked at Kennedy's line it only goes back so far I can not find the connection yet, will keep looking. If anyone knows please email me at thomasrooney83@yahoo.com
Thomas K. Rooney
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July 13, 2010
On my facebook account on pictures I have picture of the house my 10th great grandfather built it is on the Va Historical list It is still standing after all these years~! The last picture is the house and I have posted comments about my history it is a wonderful house!
Thomas K. Rooney
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July 13, 2010
I have researched my family tree for 8 years and I have found out that my 10th great grandparents are Joesph Royall and Katherine Banks Royall Isham, I am so proud to know that I am cousin to Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall the longest serving judge in American History on the supreme Court and last but not least the greatest general of the Civil War Robert e. Lee. What a heritage to be a part of! My family has been in America for close to 400 years and I am so proud of my ancestors for building this great Nation!
Melissa Royall
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April 01, 2010
Hello!

I was so excited to read this article. I am also a descendent from this link, Katherine is listed as my 9th Great-Grandmother in my lineage.

What a wonderful woman--until now I didn't know anything about her! I've only now begun to explore my lineage, and have found wonderful surprises such as this gem of an article.

Thank you so much!

Please contact me, I would love to know more!melissa.ebert@gmail.com

Thanks!!

Melissa Royall