John Babb & Fort Mattapony (1682)

Fort Mattapony was a colonial-era fort located in what is now King William County, Virginia. The fort was built in the late 17th century as part of a network of defenses along the Mattaponi River to protect settlers from attacks by Native American tribes.

Cover Image: A current day image of Mattaponi Tribe members

The fort, first built in 1657, was a wooden structure surrounded by a palisade and was manned by a small garrison of soldiers. During the colonial period, the fort served as an important defense against Native American raids and was also a center of trade and commerce for the surrounding area. The fort was rebuilt in 1679 and then was garrisoned by Mattaponi warriors for their own defense. Note that the Tribe and River as spelled Mattaponi, but the Fort is named Mattapony.

It is against this backdrop that our story takes shape.

A Nathaniel Bacon authors a letter to the Deputy Governor, Sir Henry Chicheley, requesting reimbursement in the form of 2000 pounds of Tobacco to John Babb for transporting soldiers to the “Mattapony Garrison” [sic]. The original request is undated, but the response occurs on 22 November 1682.

The arrival of the soldiers appears to have been just in time as the Seneca Tribe from the northwest attacked in 1683. In the same year, Acting Governor, Sir Henry Chicheley died.

Please note that this is NOT the Nathaniel Bacon of Bacon’s Rebellion. He died during the rebellion in 1676. That Nathaniel Bacon is both celebrated and reviled. However, the other people in this story would have also dealt with that Nathaniel Bacon just 6 years prior as they put down his rebellion. They are likely related, but information abounds on the well-known Nathaniel, and it helps obscure the identity of our Nathaniel.

The request was favorably received, and John Babb was awarded his 2000 pounds of Virginia Tobacco. John is clearly a mariner as Virginia Tobacco was the leading export of the Colonies back to Devon and London. No farmer would be procuring Tobacco, they would be selling it.

Key Takeaways

Fort Mattapony sits along the Mattaponi River which feeds the York River. The York River passes directly by Yorktown, VA near the Babb encampment of the White Stags of Easter Virginia and North Carolina were established. However, the John Babb located in York County, VA doesn’t seem to have been in shipping. He was owner of 80 acres of marsh land and his estate mentions nothing about items related to the profession.

There is also the John Babb that in 1681-1682 lived in St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada.

However, as a mariner, John could be from anywhere and as I’ve mentioned before that John is the most common name in our tree. So, until more information becomes available to enlighten us to his story, we will remember him as another Babb Mariner with an unknown lineage.


During the American Revolution, the fort was used by both American and British forces, with each side taking control of the fort at different times. After the war, the fort was abandoned and eventually fell into disrepair.

Today, there is little evidence of the original fort, but its history and significance to the area are remembered and celebrated. The site of the fort is now a historic park, and a replica of the fort has been built to commemorate its importance in colonial and early American history.

It is unclear if the designated archaeological site includes one or the other, or both, fort sites.

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