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History of the    

Greenhaw Family

in America



from the book ....


a Genealogical History 1650-1977”

by Clyde Greenhaw Newman



Chapter 1





The Greenhows or Greenhalgh (as was earlier spelling) seem to have lived in several different counties in the north of England – Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmorland in the lakes region.  Probably the surname originated here after the Norman invasion of 1066.


The ruins of the Greehalgh Castle, built by the first Earl of Derby, is listed with the principal old castles of Lancaster in Lancashire. ¹


John Greenhow, the emigrant-merchant to Williamsburg, Virginia and founder of the Greenhow family in America, came from High House, Staunton, near Kendal, in Westmorland, 22 miles north of Lancaster.  He was born November 12, 1724 at High House.


Of French origin, his parents were Robert and Anne Dodgson Greenhow.  She was a daughter of Thomas and Mary Strickland Dodgson of Kendal, Westmorland.


The first of the Strickland family of Westmorland, “Sir Roger” de Strickland landed in 1066 during the Norman invasion and conquest of England.  “De” once preceded all of the ancient Norman names.  The Normans were descendents of the Vikings.


The following is quoted from William and Mary College Quarterly, Williamsburg, Virginia:


A brief sketch of the Virginia Branch of this family is given in Quarterly, VII, provided by Mr. R. Ralph Greenhow of Partridge Road, Cardiff, Great Britain.  Mr. Greenhow writes: “I enclose you herewith a genealogical chart which shows you John Greenhow’s English ancestry.  I am sorry I cannot yet take it farther back, but the fact is at some period, before my time, some evil person cut out the first twelve pages of our family record book, but I hope at some future date to be able to find the link which will carry the genealogical history to a branch of that name which is frequently mentioned in the old Northern MS in the thirteenth century.  However, a little of John Greenhow’s mother’s (Anne Dodgson) history will possibly interest you.  Anne Dodgson’s mother was Mary Strickland.  She married Thomas Dodgson of Kendal, Westmoreland.  The Strickland family of Westmoreland are one of our oldest families – The first “Sir Roger” de Strickland landed in 1066, and as he stepped on the English shore, he struck the shore with his sword and claimed it in the Duke’s name, and was given the Manor of Westmoreland and took the name of Strickland, which afterwards became Strickland.  The head of that family still lives at Sizergh Castle, near Kendal, Westmoreland. The celebrated historian, Agnes Strickland, was of that stock also.” ²


History tells us that the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066 gave the Norman duke control of England and the title of William the Conqueror.  He was crowned King William I of England on Christmas Day, the same year, at Westminster.


Sizergh Castle, located three miles south of Kendal, has a 14th century peal tower and a great Tudor Hall.  It was the home of the Strickland family from 1239.  It has belonged to the National Trust since 1950. ³


Kendal is a market town and municipal borough, 22 miles north of Lancaster and is on the main road from London to Scotland. ¹


Lancaster was an important Roman station and traces of the Roman fortification wall remains. ¹


Chapter 2




Williamsburg was the Capital of the Virginia Colony and a cultural and political center for 81 years (1699-1780). Starting in 1632 as a settlement of Middle Plantation, it became the Capital of the Colony and was renamed Williamsburg in 1699.


John Greenhow came from High House, near Kendal, in England and settled in Williamsburg in 1754 or as early as 1750.  He became the founder of the Greenhow family in America.  The emigrant ancestor of the Greenhaws in America was a prosperous merchant of Williamsburg, carrying quality merchandise and fine teas.  He was active in the commercial and social life of Williamsburg for more than a third of a century.




Restoration of the 18th century city—Colonial Williamsburg—was begun in 1926 through the support of Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., visualized by W. A. R. Goodwin, rector of Bruton Parish.


(The late Winthrop Rockefeller, former governor of Arkansas, was director and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)


Many buildings in the restored city were reconstructed upon their foundations and numerous modern buildings razed and restored to 18th century appearance.


John Greenhow, prosperous merchant of colonial times, lived in a “large and commodious dwelling house with adjoining store” on the Duke of Gloucester Street almost opposite the Palace Green.  At the eastern end of the street stands the reconstructed Capitol and at the western end is the College of William and Mary.


 (The John Greenhow home in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, is on the main thoroughfare – The Duke of Gloucester Street – almost opposite the Palace Green.  A marker in front of the house reads: “John Greenhow, Merchant in Fine Teas, 1768.”  An identification plaque hangs at the entrance.)





The John Greenhow house was destroyed during the Civil War.  The Battle of Williamsburg in the Civil War was a rear guard action on May 5, 1862.


Reconstruction of this property included the house and store, a lumber house, two kitchen outbuildings, a brick dairy, corn house and “necessary house”.  It was one of the largest single reconstruction projects.  The main building has a double storied basement which faces the rear yard and gardens. 4


The Greenhow lumber house, now known as the Spinning Weaving house, is one of Colonial Williamsburg’s operating craft shops, open to the public.




The Greenhow-Repiton house and brick office stands adjacent to the east of the Greenhow dwelling in the same block.  This white frame house, a story and half in height, with steep, gabled roof, destroyed early in this century, was reconstructed.  It faces north on the Duke of Gloucester Street opposite the Market Square and the court house of 1770, now a museum.  The original brick office, behind the house, a one-story with semi-basement, was restored.


The boot and shoemaker’s shop, separating the two dwellings, is an operating craft shop, open to the public.




John Greenhow’s home was the scene of many social gatherings.  Records indicate he had considerable wealth, owning property in Williamsburg in addition to his residence, office, and mercantile house.




Bruton Parish Church stands at the corner of Duke of Gloucester Street and the Palace Green, almost opposite the Greenhow house.  The Greenhows worshipped at this church.  John and Judith Davenport Greenhow had their son, Robert, christened in this church, his birth being recorded as “Whitson Monday’ 1761.  John Greenhow had slaves baptized in Bruton Parish church during the years 1762-1764. ²




In 1780, John Greenhow followed the move of the government to Richmond, 50 miles distant, leaving his son, Robert, to carry on his father’s merchandising business in Williamsburg.  John Greenhow became the owner of some choice lands in Richmond besides his mercantile business.  4


John Greenhow died August 29, 1787, after a short illness, and is buried in Bruton Parish cemetery at Williamsburg.  He left his estate to his son, Robert, who was named executor of his will.  Robert Greenhow was mayor of Williamsburg for several years and twice a delegate to the State Legislature.  4




Some of the early members of the Greenhow family took part in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.  John Greenhow is listed as a soldier of Virginia in the Revolution by John H. Gwathmey, Historical Register of Virginians in the Revolution, Richmond, Va. ²





(1)   Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 13, pp 638-Lancashire, N. W. County antiquities.  Pp 322  pp 643

(2)   College Quarterly, Series 1, 17 (April, 1909), 231 Research by Ida Greenhaw Taylor and her husband, Hugh L. Taylor, of Norport, Alabama, 1969.

(3)   Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 25, pp 543

(4)   Report on Colonial Williamsburg by the Board President, 1954.





This book available from:

Boone County Historical and Railroad Society, Inc.

113 South Cherry Street

P.O. Box 1094

Harrison, AR  72602-1094



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