John Hook

1758 – John Hook sailed from Glasgow, Scotland, to Virginia, as a 13-year-old apprentice shopkeeper and clerk, to learn the tobacco trade with the Scottish Donald family (Robert and James Donald?) (a family that dealt in tobacco in the Chesapeake area).

1764 – John Hook first arrived at New London.

1766 – John Hook made a partnership with William Donald and James Donald. William returned to Scotland to manage the business from there, James set up a store in Warwick, and John would set up a store on the frontier in Bedford County with the £500 he borrowed from the brothers. Hook’s first autumn shipment of goods arrived in October, too late in the season to sell much.

1766 or 1767 – Robert Cowen set up a store competing with Hook, backed by Hook’s old Scottish employers, Robert and James Donald.

1768 – Letter from Hook to employers indicating that he though Robert Cowan flattered shoppers and that Cowan was losing sales by it.

1768 – Hook’s opinion of the New London area, written to his partner in Scotland was that “this and the adjacent Frontier counties is settling unaccountable fast from people below [the fall line of the James River] and from the Northward.” These settlers were likely coming through the Great Wagon Road and the Wilderness Road.

1769 – Hook’s employer, William Donald, decided to close the Warwick store and send James Donald to New London to join Hook. A younger brother, Robert Donald, also joined them there.

1770 – John Hook married Elizabeth Smith, daughter of a wealthy planter.

1771 – John Hook became disillusioned with his employers and instead partnered with David Ross in Petersburg. (He put an advertisement in the Virginia Gazette for August 19 after having failed in several attempts to partner with other people. The advertisement publicized his intent to leave Virginia and return to Scotland if he could not find a suitable partnership.) By September, Hook and Ross signed the partnership agreement; Hook would run the New London store and another one at Falling River; Ross owned several stores in the back country, was invested in ironworks, owned land in Bedford County, and had a large warehouse of goods.

1771 – William Mead purchased many things at Hook’s store, including some fine goods and large quantities of some goods, but did not pay anything on his bill that autumn. He tended to purchase when he was in town during Court session.

1772, February – Hook’s competitors, James and Robert Donald, closed their New London store.

1772, May 16 – John Hook bought New London Lot #23 from William Callaway.

1772 – William Mead first ordered special items from John Hook, including his famous Scottish clock.

1772 – Credit crisis and financial panic throughout Atlantic hit Virginia hard. A credit bubble burst, a Scottish bank failed, English and Scottish banks were unstable and stopped honoring bills of credit. This in addition to locally inflated tobacco prices from a bidding war. Tobacco was the foundation of money and trade in colonial Virginia. It was the item shipped to England and Scotland after merchants in Virginia received their goods for their mercantile businesses.

1772, October – The four Bedford merchants, John Hook, Robert Cowan, James Callaway, and Robert Donald, met to agree to control the prices of their goods (in similar manner to their merchant peers back East).

1773 – The Bedford planters met to agree to control the sale price of their tobacco and banded together for consignment of it through Richard Stith, bypassing the Scottish merchants. After this, Hook and his fellow merchants had a falling out, Hook standing accused of violating the terms of their agreement. (Would the “Bedford planters” have included William Mead?)

1773, June – After June 1773, Ross agreed for Hook to order his own imported goods from Walter Chambre in Whitehaven, England, rather than relying on Ross. This occurred after several months of Hook’s dissatisfaction with the goods that Ross had been sending.

1774, May 12 – Letter from John Hook to Thomas Jefferson, sent by way of Mr. Steptoe, offering to sell Jefferson land adjoining his other properties.

1776 – Oxford Iron Works in Bedford County purchased by Davis Ross, John Hook’s business partner.

1777, June – Hook was accused of Toryism and treason by a mob led by Col. William Mead, a wealthy, local magistrate. Most of the men in the group were Hook’s customers and owed him money. Mead wanted Hook “not to carry on any kind of Trade in this County till after Court.”

1779, January 5 – Letter from John Hook to Thomas Jefferson complaining about the quality of tobacco he purchased from Jefferson’s overseer.

1781 – Incident triggering Hook case (1789) occurred. Mr. Venable, commissary for the American army, took two of Scottish merchant John Hook’s steers for his troops, not entirely legally.

1783ish – John Hook left the Scottish tobacco trade, moved across county lines, and became a planter and merchant. The Revolutionary War ended Ross and Hook’s partnership, perhaps at this time or earlier.

1783 – John Hook’s case brought against John Venable, lingered on the docket until 1789. (Would he have gone to Rustburg or Richmond to lodge the complaint?)

1784 – John Hook had a mercantile business in Hale’s Ford 1784-1808.

1785, May 19 – Hook and Ross sold their land holdings in and around New London, presumably including Lot #23, which, according to Holt plat survey, Holt later owned. Next to/across alley from Lot #17.

1789, September 19 – Patrick Henry defended the state/John Venable (the son of a friend, William Venable, who helped him get elected to the House of Burgesses) in the Hook v. Venable case. Henry’s famous “beef speech.” One penny of damages and one penny of costs to plaintiff were awarded to Hook. (It would seem that this was not the only case Patrick Henry argued at New London.)

1791 – Sequestration proceedings began against John Hook. See 1795.

1795 – Litigation between Ross and Hook began. Ross accused Hook of not fully paying him when their partnership was ended by the Revolutionary War. This case would go unresolved for nearly forty-five years. Other sources have the court case as lasting from 1791 to 1850.

1801 – The fiasco of Hook’s disappearing 1770’s account books, needed for the Ross v. Hook case. (For a good laugh, read Martin’s Buying into the World of Goods, pp. 67-68.) Hook property inventoried.

1802 – Some papers filed in Chancery Court, Richmond, Va., for the Ross v. Hook case.

1808 – John Hook died.

1809 – John Hook’s property inventoried after his death in 1808.

1850 – Ross v. Hook case resolved.