FREE Kindle just for you!

I, John Culpepper” is FREE on Kindle through 4/19. Grab a copy and relax with a good book this weekend. Click here – “I, John Culpepper” at Amazon.

Below is the blurb and a snippet from the book.

51hHerBrPbL._UY250_I, John Culpepper

John Culpepper was born into a privileged childhood, surrounded by abundant wealth, vast land holdings, and stately English manors. As he grew, he was expected to follow family tradition—attend law school and serve in Parliament, following which he would retire to a quiet life as a country gentleman.

John, however, had different desires. He longed to captain a mighty ship, to hear the snap of the sails, to taste the salty spray on his lips. To follow his dreams, John would have to risk being disinherited by his unyielding father. He would have to defy family convention. He would ultimately be forced to choose between the woman he loved and his mistress—the sea.

I, John Culpepper is a work of historical fiction based on the life of the 17th-century man historians refer to as John Culpepper the Merchant. He is believed to be the progenitor of the modern-day American Culpeppers. He was my 10th great-grandfather.

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Here’s a snippet from the day John was born. The photo is the replicas of the ships mentioned in the scene. These replicas were built in the late 1900s and are currently docked on the James River in the Jamestown settlement where the original ships were heading. Road trip! Let’s go!

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susan constant, discovery, goodspeed replicas on the chesapeake1606, Blackwall, London

“Master Culpepper! Master Culpepper!” the servant boy shouted over the bells clanging from the church steeple. He pulled the scratchy scarf tightly around his neck to ward off the chill as he pushed his way through the masses gathered on the foggy banks of the Thames.

The crowd had been gathering on the wharf for nearly two days to witness the departure of the ships, and they were prepared for a spectacle unlike any they had seen before. When the tide came in, the three ships carrying one hundred forty passengers and sailors would depart England on an exciting adventure. The air smelled of salt and tar and sweat. This was a remarkable place, a magical place, where the preparations were as exciting at the coming voyage. The anticipation in the air was nearly as thick as the fog.

The boy stopped for a moment as a wooden cask was rolled across the cobblestone in front of him. He watched as workers carefully rolled the barrel up the tilted gangplank. He remained frozen in the middle of the bustling crowd, staring at the ship. He had never seen anything so majestic in all his twelve years, and his jaw dropped at her sheer size. She was an enormous castle-like structure, at least eighty feet in length, her belly bulging at the side where the last of the cargo was being loaded in. Crates and boxes were continually being carried up the gangplank, where they disappeared into the ship’s dark interior. The deck above the cargo area was much narrower and the boy imagined that’s where the sailors would remain during the voyage, climbing masts and hoisting sails. Circling the spiderweb of hemp ropes and yardarms, seagulls cawed as if singing along with the rhythmical clanging of a nearby metal object. The boy scanned the scene for the source of the sound and noticed a blind beggar sitting on the cobblestone near the bow of the ship, tapping a stick on a metal bowl.

Behind the ship floated a second ship, nearly as large as the first, and behind that loomed a third. Each hosted its own cast of sailors, supplies, vagrants, and gangplanks. As wavelets gently raised and lowered the vessels, moans of protest arose from the taut ropes, and the weathered wood creaked with each stomp of a sailor’s boot. Nearby, two mangy hounds barked and growled over some fish scraps, bringing the boy’s attention back to his task at hand. Remembering why he had come, he yelled, “Master Culpepper!” He spun around and around looking for the man, weaving between horses, carts, trunks, and sailors shouting commands. He darted in and out of the crowd, making sure he didn’t bump into any wealthy gentlemen, recognizable by their long cloaks adorned with colorful silk threads.

In April, King James had created the Virginia Company, which would finance sailings to Virginia and Plymouth with the aim of settling colonies and profiting from the land’s abundant natural resources. The aristocracy funded the expeditions with the expectation of making an exorbitant profit. The three ships embarking from Blackwall on this day would sail to Virginia and bring back riches. There were rumors of gold, silver, and gems merely washing up on the shore for the taking. If nothing else, there was surely timber to be harvested. The trees in England had long been felled and the rising price of timber would certainly bring the investors a hefty return.

After they finished loading supplies and the morning fog had dissipated, the ships would raise their sails and ride the tide down the Thames. They would enter the English Channel and cross the great ocean and return by summertime.

The boy bobbed in and out of the crowd, searching for his master.

“Who are you searching for, lad?” a man in a ruffled collar asked.

“Master Culpepper,” the boy replied, removing his hat and revealing his dirty blond hair, which was sticking this way and that like a wheat field in a mighty windstorm. He twisted the wool hat in his hands.

“Johannes or Tom?”

“Johannes Culpepper, sir.”

“I saw him down by the front ship—the Discovery—only moments ago. He was standing right on the dock.”

“Thank you.”

The boy nodded, replaced his cap, and shoved through the workers and onlookers toward the front ship. As he passed the first ship, he looked at the name written on her side and sounded out the letters. He couldn’t make any sense of the words Susan Constant, but when he reached the second ship, he could read God…speed. He wondered if the Godspeed was true to her name. If he were to sail, he would rather sail on the Godspeed and get there faster. From what he understood, it was a two-month voyage if the weather was bonny, maybe four months if the ship ran into rough seas.

He had once spent a morning in a small fishing boat and instantly became green with sickness that lasted for days. He didn’t think he would be able to survive the time it would take to sail to Virginia. He gawked at the bow of the Godspeed as he ran past, witnessing a young lad about his age. The sailor dripped with sweat, even in the chill of the damp morning air, as he coiled ropes and folded sails. What a great adventure it would be to sail to Virginia, but alas, the boy would never get to do such amazing things. He was a servant, a gift from His Majesty King James I to Johannes Culpepper. He would always be a servant, but perhaps someday he would be fortunate enough to serve the king. Even though Master Culpepper was good to him, he wished to someday live at court and be somebody. At least he had the slimmest of chances. His sister had been placed in the kitchen of some castle in Wales. She would never be anything more than a scullery maid. Women would never hold a place in society. They were not welcomed on this voyage, either.

He hopped up and down, unsuccessfully trying to look over the crowd. “Master Culpepper!” he called.

A man turned and pointed. “Culpepper is right over there, son.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The boy sprinted in the general direction, and when he pushed through a couple workers conversing on the dock, he saw him.

“Master Culpepper!”

The boy ran up behind Johannes Culpepper and patted the back of his master’s arm, hopping up and down. “Master Culpepper!”

Johannes turned and looked down at the boy, his square jaw set and his blue-gray eyes burrowing into the lad. “What is it, boy? Why are you making such a commotion?”

The boy panted, out of breath from running. “Master Culpepper, m’lady is havin’ the baby, sir!”

Johannes’s face turned red as he glanced around the crowd to see if anyone was eavesdropping. When he saw no one was, he folded his arms across his chest and stroked his beard. “You came all this way to tell me that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very good, boy. You run along home now.”

The boy didn’t move. How could his master not be excited about this news? Did he not want to return home and see his wife and child? Was there anything the boy could say to convince the man to accompany him back to the house?

“Go on. Run along.” Johannes waved the boy off with a flip of his ringed fingers and abruptly turned his back.

“Yes, sir.” The lad backed up, keeping his eyes on his master, wondering what he would tell the governess when he returned home without his master in tow. He had ridden nearly four hours to get to Blackwall this morning, most of it in the dark as the sun had not even risen when he left. He would have a four-hour return trip to think of something. He turned and walked back in the direction from which he had come.

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Get your FREE copy by clicking HERE.

Saturday Snippet – I, John Culpepper

Culpepper_1My new book, I, John Culpepper, has been released!!

It is the story of young John Culpepper, whose only dream is to own a merchant ship. As you will see in the snippet below, his aristocratic father is not the most supportive. Some of the story occurs simultaneously with historical events we know well. The follow snippet happens on September 6, 1620.

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Fourteen-year-old John stood on the banks of the Thames and stared at her. She was the most majestic creature he had ever seen. He admired her pear shape, her curved lines. From the beak of her prow to the tip of her stern, she must have been nearly one hundred feet in length. Three masts towered above her decks and her white sails billowed, straining against their ropes. Fluttering atop her mainmast, the red-and-white English flag proudly announced her pedigree. She rode the gentle waves toward the English Channel, sailing into the rising sun. Her sharp silhouette stood in contrast to the backdrop of a clouded pink-and-purple sky.

“What are you looking at, boy?” his father bellowed from the carriage.

He pointed at the river as he turned. “Look at the ship, Father!”

“Stop gawking and get over here and unhitch these horses.”

“Yes, sir,” John mumbled. He trudged back toward the carriage, wondering why there wasn’t a footman or stable boy to take care of the animals. He walked around to the other side of the horses and wrapped his fingers around one of the halters.

He peeked around the horse’s nose, watching his father march through the puddles as he crossed the road toward the inn. His father’s long black cloak billowed behind him, caught by an unexpected breeze. John looked up at the sky. Last night’s storm clouds were dissolving and large pockets of blue sky were beginning to show through. When he looked back at his father, the man’s shadow was walking beside him, just as formidable as the real man.

Thomas appeared by John’s side and plopped their father’s large trunk on the ground at John’s feet. The horse jumped and John quickly released the halter.

Thomas complained under his breath, “You’ll never learn, will you? That’s not one of our ships sailing for the Virginia Company. That’s a competitor’s ship. Father isn’t interested in that ship. As a matter of fact, Father has lost so much money investing in these expeditions, he’s not interested in any ships or your fascination with them.”

“How much money?”

“What?” Thomas asked from the back of the carriage, where he was now retrieving another trunk.

“How much money has he lost?”

“I don’t know exactly, but he’s been waiting for shipments of timber from Virginia that never arrived. He said the men who sailed there were too busy trying to survive to cut any trees. So, each time a ship returns empty, Father loses money.”

“But money aside, how can he not love them? All of them. They’re beautiful. Imagine where that ship is heading, sailing off to some enchanted seaport. Silk from the Orient, cotton and tobacco from the colonies. I can picture it coming ashore in Virginia, where one can view rolling land as far as the eye can see, so much land and it’s nearly free for the taking.” John turned to gaze again at the ship as it rounded the bend of the river. He took a step away from the horses so he could see her better, if only for the next few moments until she disappeared.

“Don’t admire that ship too fondly. She’s not going to the Orient. She’s called the Mayflower and she’s going to Plymouth.” Thomas looked at the ship. “And she’s not so grand. As a matter of fact, she’s rather old. She’s already crossed the ocean quite a few times.” He looked back at John. “And why are you talking about rolling land? You’ll never own land.” He laughed as John struggled with the horse’s buckles. “Father will leave everything to me. You will be sent to Middle Temple to be trained as a lawyer, and someday you will oversee my estates.”

John gave up on the buckles and marched toward his brother. “I don’t want to oversee your estates. Oversee them yourself.”

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I, John Culpepper is available at Amazon.

Stop by the Culpepper Saga Facebook page to see more of the people and places of the series.

It’s Release Day! It’s Release Day!

Culpepper_1I’m so excited!

Today is release day for my new book, I, John Culpepper!! Ahoy, Sailor!

I began writing this book in August of last year, but the more I researched, the more interesting stuff I found, so…the book…became FOUR BOOKS. It morphed into the Culpepper Saga, beginning with John’s childhood, segueing into the English Civil War, moving across the ocean to the colony of Virginia, and finally finding inner peace and acceptance. It seems like I’ve been writing the story forever, and when I put it like that, I guess I have been…well, at least 60 years worth of writing. The tale begins in 1606 in England and is the life-story of my 10th great-grandfather, John Culpepper.

The Culpepper family has been traced by many genealogists back to the 12th century in England. They were a political family who served the monarchy for generations. Though my favorite Culpepper patriarch has always been John Culpepper of Wigsell, who lived in the 16th century, I ended up writing the book series about his grandson, also named John Culpepper. Maybe someday I’ll go back and tell his grandpa’s story.

John was born in Kent, England in 1606 and was surrounded by a cast of interesting family members including his above mentioned grandfather, his brother Thomas who served as a colonel in the king’s army, his uncle Sir Alexander Culpepper who was a knight under King James and King Charles I, and his cousin Lord Culpepper first baron of Thoresway who served under three kings. But none made a bigger impression on John than his overbearing father, Johannes, who was a prominent lawyer in London. His father insisted John attend law school, but John wanted instead to command a mighty ship. This dream strained their relationship, and his father threatened to disown him when it came time to purchase a ship. Instead of receiving daddy’s help, John got funding from his older brother, Thomas, and records show the name of the ship being the Thomas and John. Records also show John in the colony of Virginia upon the occasion of his father’s death.

The first book in the Culpepper Saga, I, John Culpepper, is the story of John’s childhood, his strained relationship with his father, meeting the lovely woman who would eventually become his wife, and starting his career as a ship merchant. In the three sequels, we will find John’s ship becoming a lifeboat that keeps the family from certain execution during the English Civil War, and John’s unwanted law-school education becoming the only thing standing between life and death for his youngest son. In retrospect, maybe John’s father wasn’t the bad guy John always thought him to be.

Everything happens for a reason, especially for John Culpepper.

I, John Culpepper is available at Amazon.

For photos and paintings of the people and places in the series, visit the Culpepper Saga Facebook page.

Saturday Snippet – I, John Culpepper

Here’s a bit of my work-in-progress, “I, John Culpepper.” For you ancestry/genealogy readers, John Culpepper is my 10th great grandpa. Release date will be April 10, 2015.

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Culpepper_1Fall 1626, England

“No! For the hundredth time, no!”

John looked down at the intricate grain of the walnut desk beneath his fingertips and shifted his weight to his other foot. He sighed, feeling his dreams disintegrate before his very eyes. The snap of the white sails, the taste of the salty spray on his lips, the smell of the tar that sealed the decks—the visions were quickly vanishing behind the thick fog of his father’s adamant disapproval. He pictured his mighty ship sinking into the black waters of condemnation, bubbling like a cauldron as it disappeared from sight. There was nothing he could do to change his father’s mind, and he wondered whatever possessed him to come to this man for assistance. He should have known better.

His father glared at John from behind the desk. He propped his elbow on the scrolled arm of the chair as his large hand methodically stroked his pointed beard. “Is there anything else?” he snapped.

John didn’t look up. He shook his head and mumbled, “No.” He turned and padded across the thick rug toward the door, listening to the man’s heavy breathing behind him. He reached for the brass doorknob, paused, and turned back. “You know I’ve always done everything you’ve asked of me. I went to school. I studied to be a lawyer. I did it all for you. I never wanted to practice law. I’d never be happy on the bench.”

“Happy? What makes you think life has anything to do with being happy? You are a Culpepper, and as such, you have an obligation to serve your family and your king in a manner befitting your station. This childish notion of owning a ship is nothing but rubbish.”

John released the doorknob and walked back toward his father’s desk. The intimidating man dwarfed the desk, his size exaggerated by the broad shoulders of his leather jerkin, yet he sat up taller in his chair in preparation for the quarrel to continue. It was a wasted gesture, as his opponent already knew the battle was lost.

John made sure he didn’t raise his voice. “Father, you have financed merchant ships for as long as I can remember. What difference does it make if I’m the one who owns the ship?”

“Culpeppers don’t own ships. I funded those expeditions as an investment—a losing investment, I might add.” He rose from his chair and his voice grew louder, echoing off the oak panels that lined the walls. “There has never been a Culpepper placed in a position to experience hunger and savages and shipwrecks, and there won’t be one now, not with my blood written on the purchase. I will not fund a ship for you, John, not now, not ever.” He pointed his finger in John’s face. “And if you somehow find a way to procure a ship, mark my words—I will disinherit and disown you. No son of mine will become a common sailor. I am finished with this conversation once and for all. Have I made myself clear?”

John exhaled, beaten. His shoulders slumped as he broke his father’s glare and dropped his eyes to the floor.

“John? Have I made myself clear?”

“Completely.”

Sailing to Jamestown

I was doing research for a new book and found three ships sailed from England in 1606 and founded Jamestown, Virginia. Their names were Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed. On a side note, there is some evidence the the first ship was actually named the Sarah Constant, but that’s neither here nor there. The ships carried 105 passengers and 39 crew, and it took them four months to cross the Atlantic. I added the ships to my story and didn’t think much else about them, until I saw the following picture…

susan constant, discovery, goodspeed replicas on the chesapeake

These are the replicas of the original ships. They were used in 2007 to celebrate the 400th birthday of Jamestown and remain docked on the James River. Well, if you know me, you know I love tall ships, so now you have my interest. The more I researched the ships, the more exciting tidbits I found.

Many American’s know the name John Smith (of John Smith and Pocahontas fame) as being one of the original settlers of Jamestown, but few know that he sailed to American on the Susan Constant, and less know that he was almost hung for having a disagreement with one of the ship’s officers. Instead of killing him, they imprisoned him on board the ship for the remainder of the journey. Four months is a long time to be confined to the hole.

The captain of the Godspeed was Bartholomew Gosnold. He had made voyages to the colonies before. In 1602, he discovered and named Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyards, but the settlements he tried to place there didn’t take hold. After securing funding and ships, he sailed again in 1606. This time confident that a settlement could be formed. The thirty-something husband and father never saw his family again, as he died of scurvy and dysentery only four months after landing in Jamestown. Don’t drink the water!

The Jamestown colony was settled in 1607 by adventurers bent on making a profit. The Plymouth colony was not settled until 1621. Plymouth settlers fled to the new world for religious freedom. Why is it that Plymouth is so much more popular in the American history books than Jamestown? Is it because of Thanksgiving and those silly hats the Puritans wore?

 

Saturday Snippet – John Culpepper the Merchant

culpepper book 2 cover ideaThe second book in The Culpepper Saga takes place in the mid-1600s. John Culpepper finally got himself the boat he wished for throughout the first book (“I, John Culpepper”) and has fulfilled his dream of sailing to the new colony of Virginia. However, while he was away, civil war broke out at home in England, and John is in an understandable hurry to get back to his wife and family.

Here’s a scene from “John Culpepper the Merchant.”

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November 1642, The Doldrums

 

The Thomas and John sat idle, unmoving in the dim morning light. Her sails hung limp, as they had for the last two days. John ran his hands through his hair and impatiently tapped his foot as he stared across her bow at the unending sea of glass before him. The water blended with the sky, creating a mist as far as the eye could see. There was no horizon, just an endless mirror of foggy steel blue.

He never thought this place existed and had never experienced it on any of his prior journeys, but now, when he most needed to make haste, he found his ship stuck in the middle of it. They called it the doldrums—the place in the ocean where no wind billowed sails, no waves lapped against hulls, and no mighty vessels leapt across the breakers. John had heard tales of ships being stuck in the doldrums for weeks at a time. He prayed this wouldn’t be the case, but on this third morning, he was beginning to wonder if they’d ever break free of it. He’d heard ancient legends of ships carrying horses beneath their decks, and when they found themselves stuck in the doldrums, the crew would build cranes, lower the horses into the water, and allow them to pull the ship. He didn’t know if those stories were true, for he had never witnessed a horse swimming, but in any case, he wasn’t carrying any horses. He was, however, carrying two small rowboats.

“Drop the boats!” he yelled to Benjamin. “We’ll row.”

“Sir?” Benjamin approached. “You want the crew to row us out of the doldrums?”

“Yes, Benjamin. Put them to oar. See to it at once.”

“Yes, sir.”

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The men dropped the small boats into the water, tied them to the ship, and began to row. They struggled against the weight of their load, but ever so slowly, the majestic ship began to creep forward.

“How long do you think we’ll have to row?” one of the sailors asked another next to him.

“Until the cap’n gets her back to wind…or until we’re all dead. Whichever comes first.”

“Stop talking and keep rowing!” Benjamin bellowed from the bow.

For the next thirty hours, the sailors took turns rowing. The only movement in the water surrounding them came from the small ripples caused by their oars. After more than a day, the limp sails picked up a small draft and began swaying in the midafternoon sun.

“Sir!” yelled a sailor from one of the boats.

Benjamin turned and saw the sailor pointing up toward the sails. He looked up and saw the sails flutter in the breeze, and an uncommon grin spread across his unshaven face. He jogged to the back of the ship and descended the creaking, wooden steps to the lower deck. He dropped his head below the opening and blinked to adjust to the dim light. “Cap’n, she’s back to wind!”

“Finally!” John jumped from behind his scarred, wooden desk and followed Benjamin up the steps. On deck, he raised his hand to block the sun’s rays as he looked up at the fluttering sails. A cold, Atlantic breeze blew across John’s face, the first he had felt in four days, and he laughed out loud. “Ha! We’ve cleared the doldrums! Benjamin, hoist the sails and get us underway.”

“Aye, sir. Hoist the sails!”

Almost instantly, there was a flurry of activity on the upper deck as weathered sailors began pulling up the small boats, climbing the masts, raising the sails, and shouting commands.

“We have a lot of time to make up,” John said. “I want to be in London within the week.”

“Aye, sir!”

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John Culpepper the Merchant is now available at Amazon!

For pictures, paintings, and documents of the people and places in the Culpepper Saga, please visit the Culpepper Saga Facebook page.

October Ancestry Challenge 2013 – John Culpepper the Merchant

oct ancestry challenge-001The October Ancestry Challenge 2013 is 23 posts in 23 days (Monday through Friday) about 23 ancestors. It’s still not to late to join us.

Ancestor #2 –  John Culpepper the Merchant

My 10th great grandfather was John Culpepper, whom we refer to as John Culpepper the Merchant. He was born in 1606 in Kent, England to John Culpepper of Astwood and Ursula Woodcock, and some say he may have died in Virginia around 1674. I say “may have” because there is some genealogical confusion as to which John Culpepper was which. There were fathers, sons, and brothers all with the same name confused further by very sketchy records. Through my research, I have come to believe the John Culpepper who died in 1674 was actually his nephew, son of his brother Thomas.

Anyway, we do know John married a woman by the name of Mary and had sons named Henry (my 9th great grandfather), Dennis, James, Robert, and John of “Culpepper Rebellion” fame. At this point in history, female children weren’t noted, so between the five male births from 1635ish to 1645ish there may have been daughters born also. There is some evidence he had daughters named Hannah and Susannah, which sounds to me like a Dr. Seuss book, but the more I look at them, the more I’m convinced they were not his daughters. There is also further evidence of another girl named Abigail. I haven’t examined her records (or lack of them) yet.

feckenhamcourtfrontA few years ago, my cousin Warren Culpepper visited England and attempted to get pictures of John’s childhood home, the Culpepper manor, Astwood in Feckenham, but they were asked to leave by the owner. These photos are as close as they got.

feckenhamcourtgate

John is thought to be the ancestor of most American Culpeppers. He and his brother had ties to Virginia, so between the boys running back and forth to England (who kept VERY good records) and colonial America (who kept very poor records) we kind of lose track of him.

St_John_the_Baptist,_Harrietsham,_Kent built in the 11th centuryThe few other details we know is that he was baptized in Harrietsham, England at St. John the Baptist Church (built in the 11th century) on 6 Oct 1606; he was admitted to Middle Temple (a law school) to be trained as a lawyer on 7 May 1621, listed in the records there as the second son of John Culpepper of Astwood, Esquire; and he probably didn’t like being a lawyer, because he took up a career of merchant instead. Darned kids never do what you want them to do.

Before 1633, he became part owner with his elder brother of a merchant ship called the “Thomas and John,” which was involved in trade between England and the colonies. Merchants of colonial America left very few records, so our research suffers, but it would appear he and his brother owned a trading company with points of presence in England, Barbados, New England, and Virginia. Maybe this is where my love of tall ships comes from.

 

culpepper book 2 cover ideaEven though we don’t have a lot of records about John Culpepper the Merchant, we can tell he was obviously a brave man, sailing back and forth across the Atlantic like that. Ahoy, sailor!