From the earliest of English history in the US to modern day technological advancements, Gloucester County, Virginia is in the forefront of the silent history that impacts the world.
This brief history will show you how and why.
By; Chuck Thompson of TTC Media
United States English American history begins with the landing at Jamestown, Virginia. Less than 30 miles away from what is now known as Gloucester, Virginia. The new English frontier begins in Jamestown but is superseded by native American history of Gloucester, Virginia where Pocahontas was born in 1595 to chief Powhatan. Pocahontas, aka Matoaka, her real given name, was responsible for saving the life of Captain John Smith and building the first bridges of understanding between the Native American's and English settlers. Pocahontas married John Rolfe in Jamestown, Virginia and lived with him on his tobacco plantation in Henrico County, Virginia until they moved to England where she died a year later from small pox.
Gloucester County or Werowocomoco, was the seat of Powhatan's Confederacy of 30 tribes or about 12,000 to 15,000 Native Americans until around 1609. The location of Powhatan's chimney in the area of Wicomico in Gloucester County, was first thought to be the site of Powhatan's seat of power, but has since changed to further north in the county around Ark and Purtan Bay area.
It is hard to pinpoint exact present locations of early American history as land values have changed dramatically throughout time. Counties such as Gloucester were once part of York County which was also a part of James Citti an area that held Jamestown as the seat of government and encompassed land all the way out to West Point and included Williamsburg, Yorktown, Gloucester and others at one time. Present day Mathews county was once a part of Gloucester County. So again, even early Gloucester history is partially skewed by past and present day boundary lines that did not exist in earlier times.
Early history shows that Gloucester was a part of the tobacco trade and plantations flourished throughout the county taking advantage of this lucrative business. Fairfield Plantation was established in 1642 by Lewis Burwell and was a part of the many tobacco plantations of the early colonies. Tobacco back in that era was as good as cash.
1651 – Gloucester County is formed off of York County and established. The county is named after Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, third son of King Charles 1st of Great Britain. Daffodils are planted around the county that later become significant to future history.
1657 – Warner Plantation is established by Augustine Warner, the grandfather of George Washington.
1667 – Fortifications are built at Tyndal Point to serve as a protection location of the York River. Tyndal Point is presently known as Gloucester Point.
1674 – Nathaniel Bacon begins his famous “Rebellion”.
1676 – Nathaniel Bacon burns Jamestown to the ground. He and half his troops run for cover in Gloucester, Virginia while the other half run to nearby Surry, Virginia to hide out. On October 26th he dies of Dysentery in Gloucester County. Where is not known.
1715 – 1773 World renowned botanist John Clayton comes to Gloucester, Virginia with his father from England. He also serves as clerk of the county. Many books today still site his research.
1725 – Mann Page begins Rosewell Plantation in what is presently known as the Rosewell Ruins. The Page family is considered one of the first families of Virginia. Rosewell is considered the most elaborate home ever built in the colonies and was designed to exceed the Governor's Palace that was just built in Williamsburg in every level of luxury and amenities. The home, (now ruins), is of tremendous historical importance in our nation's history. John Page, grandson of Mann Page went to the college of William and Mary in Williamsburg and was close friends with Thomas Jefferson who spent a great deal of time at this site. It is said that early drafts of the Declaration of Independence were created here.
John Page went on to become Governor of Virginia and also served in the American Revolution attaining the rank of colonel. Meetings between John Page, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were a normal occurrence.
1781 – Battle of the Hook takes place here in Gloucester that essentially hinders Lord Cornwallis's escape route from the coming American and French armies. Surrender by the British occurs both in Yorktown and in Gloucester.
1851 – Dr Walter Reed is born here. Dr. Reed is famous as the medical hero who discovered the cause for and cure of Yellow Fever.
1861 – The first shots of the Civil War in Virginia are fired from Gloucester Point. It was well understood that protecting the York River from a northern invasion was very important as the York is an easy access point to Richmond via West Point. A northern ship trying to sail up the York River was fired on and rendered helpless moving over to the York County side of the river staying away from further enemy fire.
1930's and 1940's. Gloucester is named the “Daffodil Capital of America”. Annual festivals are still held each year celebrating this vibrant flower.
1940 – VIMS or the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences is founded here. Part of the college of William and Mary, VIMS impacts the world with it's research findings and it's work is much sought after around the globe.
1952 – The George P Coleman Bridge is opened to traffic. Rebuilt in record time in 1995 to create more lanes for traffic, this bridge once it was finished was the largest in the world at the time. Today it ranks largest of it's kind in the United States and Second in the world but it's about to become third place. It is a double swing span bridge that extends almost 90 feet above water at it's highest area.
Present day. Gloucester as one can clearly see, has been at the forefront of history that has had great effects on both the nation and the world around us and yet it's all in the background of the history books if mentioned at all. Gloucester continues this great tradition today and who knows what the future holds? If history is a key indicator, then Gloucester will continue it's greatness but maybe, just maybe, no longer in the footnotes of the history books but instead at the front of the history books.
Gloucester County government sponsors events throughout the year celebrating it's great history and now you know what pride exists amongst it's residents.
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