Tucked into the minutes of the House of Burgesses on Sept. 3, 1736 is this line: “Ordered, That Mr. Boush have leave to be absent from the Service of this House, til this Day Seven-night.”
|Samuel Boush, courtesy of Sargeant|
Memorial Collection, Norfolk Public Library
Col. Samuel Boush, as he was known, was surely busy; he was drawing up plans for the new town of Norfolk. He didn’t overstay his leave, however, and was back in Williamsburg four days later in time to have a charter for the for the town signed by Gov. William Gooch and then introduce it to the House.
Among those named for the Common Council were none other than Samuel Boush, Mayor, and Samuel Boush “the younger,” as alderman.
It sounds like self-dealing, of course, but Boush, who owned vast amounts of land just north of Main Street was a rich and powerful figure. So who would dare complain?
Boush became Norfolk’s first mayor. But wait, less than two months later, before the first meeting of the council, he died, and George Newton, one of Boush’s hand-picked aldermen, was promptly sworn in.
We may only have heard about him because of the wide thoroughfare that takes traffic down to the Norfolk waterfront, turning into Waterside Drive. But there’s a lot more to “the Old Colonel” than meets the eye, or tires that meet the road.
What got me thinking about him is an auction that is going to be held, starting Aug. 21, by the James D. Julian Gallery of Fairfield, Maine. Among the items is “Samuel Boush’s 1762 Plan for Norfolk,” a faded, pen-on-sheepskin map showing the town’s northern expansion.
This wasn’t the original Old Colonel, but Boush “the younger,” the son who continued the family’s vast real estate dealings.
The plan, along with several other items, including a 1794 map of Virginia, a 19th century still life (with fruit and birds), other paintings and a porcelain vase, are being offered by Eileen Vernon of Virginia Beach, a 7th generation descendant of Boush.
Not much is known about the second Col Boush, but the first cut quite a figure. So did his brother, Maximilian, who in 1706 was prosecuting attorney in the infamous trial of Grace Sherwood, the “Witch of Pungo.”
I don’t know what there was with the Boushes and rebellious women, but there’s a pattern here. Records show that the town’s first ducking stool was erected in 1716, “good and substantial,” at the end of Samuel Boush’s wharf at the upper end of town.
These barbaric devices, consisting of chairs that were attached to polls and could be lowered into local waterways. They were supposed to, according to one account, correct the behavior of “the good wife who gossiped too much.” Or seemed to be a little out of line. She would be repeatedly ducked until she gasped for forgiveness.
Oh, those Boush brothers!
A lot of people got rich during Norfolk’s growth spurt in the early 1700s, but probably no one more than Boush, the town’s first suburban developer. He owned vast tracks of land just outside town limits and began subdividing them into lots and selling them to tradesmen. Among the first were mariners, shoemakers, shipwrights, weavers and joiners.
By 1715 he was running both ferries across the Elizabeth River, receiving 3,000 pounds of tobacco annually for his services. He had a brick-making business that supplied the building materials for a lot of the town’s new homes, and maybe one of its churches. He gave a silver communion chalice, made in England, to the Borough Church, now St. Paul’s Episcopal.
Now here’s a mystery. On the side the church nearest the south transept is an inscription with the date 1739 and the initials “S.B.” Presumably, this is the Boush who gave the chalice and apparently the land where the first churchyard was created.
This historic cemetery beside the church contains the graves of many stalwart figures of the era, but apparently not Boush. Historians have long puzzled about this. Is there a burial site in the churchyard that is so weather-worn that its inhabitant has been forgotten?
We may never know.