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Ambrose Harmer

Member From: 1645 - 1646

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  • Birth Date: Unknown Birth Place:
  • Death Date: ca. 1647
  • Gender: Male Race: Caucasian
  • Spouse: Jane
  • Children:
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  • Bio: AMBROSE HARMER was elected Speaker of the House of Burgesses at the assembly of 1646. Governor Sir Francis Wyatt appointed him to the Council between November 1636 and the assembly hat me in January 1640, and he was present at quarter sessions from March 1640 through December 1641, Harmer was not retained on the Council in the commission of Governor Sir William Berkley, who arrived in February 1642. James City County elected Harmer to the House of Burgesses for the assemblies of 1645, 1645-1646, and 1646.
    Known details of Speaker Harmers life are few. He is thought to have come to Virginia about 1625 and is known to have opposed Governor Sir John Harvey during the mid-1630s. In May 1637 Ambrose Harmer petitioned the king for custody of Benoni Buck, the orphaned idiot son of Reverend Richard Buck, of Jamestown. Harmer claimed that Buck's two other sons, Gerhson and Peleg, had been in his custody from about 1625 until they assumed control of their own estates ay maturity. Since Benoni was an idiot, however, under English law his guardian had use of his estate during life to defer the cost of caring for him. Virginia had no applicable stature, and Harmer petitioned the king that since Benoni Buck was "the first Ideott found in that plantacon As alsoe that there is not yet any provision made for the government of such persons and of their estates … that your Royall Majestie would be graciously pleased to grant him the government of the said Ideott and his poore estate." His petition was successful, Harmer received an order of the court of wards and a commission from the king to maintain Benoni Buck and to have custody of his estate.
    In May 1639, however, Governor Harvey wrote a letter to the Privy Council contradicting the account presented by Harmer's petition. Benoni Bucks guardian had died in 1636, Harvey wrote, and his will had given custody of Benoni Buck to Secretary Richard Kemp, Harvey's political ally. Harmer's claim to custody of Benoni Buck was not as simple as his petition had made it appear. His wife, Jane and her first husband (possibly Richard Kingsmill) had had custody of the child before he had been transferred to the custody of an unnamed guardian whose will, in turn, gave custody specifically to Kemp, "principally thereby intending a protection to the sayd Ideott, and his Estate from the sayd Harmer, and his wife who ha been long gaped thereafer." Governor Harvey's plan had been to transfer custody of Benoni Buck and his estate from Kemp to Councillor George Donne, another political ally, "and soe to descend from tyme to tyme to the next of the Counsell according to their degree and place, this way recompensing their greate Charge and expense." By May 1639, however, when Harvey wrote, Benoni Buck has died and his estate had gone to "Harmer's wife, in whose custodye he dyed"
    In 1642 Ambrose and Jane Harmer patented 12,000 acres in James City County. Harmer had died by 1652, the year in which his widow patented 2,000 acres in Northumberland County. Since he had been regularly elected to the House of Burgesses in the 1640s, his absence from the assembly of 1647 suggests that he may have died during the winter of 1646-1647.
  • Other Notable Service and/or Elected Offices: Speaker of the House of Burgesses: 1646 (Oct. 5)
    Member of the Council of State: 1639 - 1640
Session District District Number Party Leadership Committees
1645 James City
1645-1646 James City County
1646 James City Speaker of the House

*The information within this interactive and searchable application has been researched extensively by the House Clerk’s Office. As with any historical records of this age and breadth, there may be discrepancies and/or inconsistencies within records obtained from a variety of credible sources. Any feedback is encouraged at history@house.virginia.gov.

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