Situated near Jamestown, Governor’s Land originally was a 3,000-acre tract encompassing open fields between the James River and Powhatan Creek. The Virginia Company of London set the parcel aside in 1618 to seat tenants who worked the land, giving half the profits to maintain the office of the governor. Deputy Governor Samuel Argall had already established the private settlement of Argall’s Town in these environs in 1617. Virginia governors also leased the property to others. Colonial leaders including William Drummond, governor of the Carolina proprietary (1665–1667) and an insurgent in Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 held lease-holds here. Portions of tract provided income to Virginia governors into the 18th century.
Samuel Argall was active governor of Virginia beginning in 1617 and ending in 1619, when he was replaced by George Yeardley (Grizzard and Smith, 16). Although he was not one of the original colonists to arrive in Virginia, he is quite a notable figure in the history of Virginia and he played an integral role in the English settlement of the colony. Argall arrived in the colony around 1609 and for a few years he was able to explore the Chesapeake region and study its native inhabitants (Grizzard and Smith, 14). In 1613, he was responsible for the kidnapping of Pocahontas. Although she was treated fairly well for being a hostage, she was held for a ransom to be exchanged for a variety of English weapons, tools and prisoners that the Powhatan natives had come into possession of; however, she was never returned back to the Powhatan natives (Grizzard and Smith, 14).
In 1617, Samuel Argall established the small, short-lived area of Argall’s Town, also known as Argall’s Guift (Hatch, 36). He was most attracted to the land west of Jamestown, and in 1617 he had been allotted 2,400 acres in a charter from England. After building a settlement in his newly established “Argall’s Town,” in 1619 he was forced to surrender his land back to Governor Yeardley, as this land was the “Governor’s Land” (Hatch, 37). Yeardley achieved this by making each settler pay a “petty rente” to make sure they acknowledged that this land had been wrongfully settled on (Hatch, 37).
Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.
Hatch, Jr. Charles E. The First Seventeen Years in Virginia: 1607- 1624. Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1957.
Historical Marker “Governor’s Land V-41,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.
“Sir Samuel Argall,” Find a Grave, www.findagrave.com (accessed April 30, 2012).
“Volunteers and Students Dig at the Argall Towne Site,” The Virginia Gazette: 1617 Village is Near Jamestown, www.vagazette.com (accessed April 30, 2012).
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