Colonial Virginia Woman
Image: James Geddy House
Located on the Palace Green across from Bruton Parish Church, the two-story James Geddy House is one of the original buildings in the Historic Area. The low-pitched roof and lack of dormers are unusual features, as are the door and balcony above the front porch. The beautiful home also housed the diverse business ventures of the Geddy family – from a foundry to a watch repair.
Anne Geddy was the wife of James Geddy Sr., who probably arrived in Virginia from Scotland sometime before 1733. Geddy was primarily a gunsmith, but he also worked in wrought iron and cast brass. By 1738, he had located his business on two lots on a site on the northeast corner of Palace Green and Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia. Anne and James had eight children, four boys and four girls.
When James Geddy Sr. died abruptly in late summer 1744, he bequeathed all of his personal and real property to his wife, Anne – a somewhat unusual occurrence in the Colonial time period. In addition, Geddy left seven of his children five shillings each. James and Anne’s eighth child, Sarah, was born before he died but after the will was written, and therefore was not included.
Anne quickly assumed direction of the business affairs of the family. In October 1744, she petitioned the House of Burgesses for the payment of a debt owed to her deceased husband for cleaning 700 weapons in the Magazine by order of the governor. Anne’s petition was initially rejected. Undeterred by this setback, she persisted in her application and was finally awarded a substantial sum of money.
From an August 1751 advertisement in the Virginia Gazette, we know that Anne’s sons David and William carried on their father’s foundry and gunsmith shop. In addition, the advertisement indicates that David and William were also skilled as buckle makers, cutlers, and sword cutlers.
The situation with Anne’s two younger sons, however, was rendered somewhat uncertain by their father’s death. James Jr. was only 13 when his father died and John even younger, so neither could have progressed very far in an apprenticeship to their father.
Although documentary evidence of Geddy family activities during this period is extremely scant, there is reason to believe that Anne put together an arrangement to rent part of her property to Samuel Galt, a local silversmith, thus securing extra income for her family.
At the same time, she may have apprenticed James and John to Galt, thus providing for their education. This scenario is based upon known facts that Galt worked on the Geddy site at one point in his career and that James and John Geddy both became silversmiths.
James Geddy Jr. purchased the corner lot from his mother in 1760, establishing his silversmith and jewelry business there. Anne may have continued to live with him after that. William and David continued to operate the foundry as a separate enterprise, although they probably paid their brother rent.
James built the current two-story L-shaped structure on the property in 1762. He operated as a silversmith on this site until late 1777, when he moved away.
Anne Geddy died sometime between 1784 and 1787. Because of her hard work, she successfully raised her eight children, and saw that the family business continued after her husband’s death. During Anne’s lifetime, it was very unusual for a woman to have the opportunity to be in charge of both a family and its business.