Posts Tagged ‘William and Mary’

Church On The Main V-46

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012


Less than one mile to the east is the site of the Church on the Main, a brick Anglican church built by the 1750s to serve James City Parish as replacement for the church on Jamestown Island, which had become difficult for communicants to reach. The Rev. James Madison(1749-1812) was its best-known rector, serving the church from about 1777 until it fell into disguise after the American Revolution and the disestablishment of the Anglican Church. Madison became president of the College of William and Mary(1777-1812) and Virginia’s first Episcopal Bishop in 1790. By 1857 all aboveground traces of the church were gone.

Further Research

Rt. Rev. James Madison, D.D., first bishop of Virginia

Two miles south of Jamestown, an agricultural area known as “the Main” became home to an anglican parish sometime in the early 1750s. As the population of Jamestown and Williamsburg exploded, the Church on the Main became a popular place of worship.

The land on which the church stood was owned by Mr. Richard Ambler of Yorktown. Upon his death in 1766, Ambler left 301 acres of the Main property to his eldest son John. John died soon after his father, and the land then was given to John’s eldest brother Edward. The youngest Ambler brother Jaquelin, married Rebecca Burwell of the Kingsmill Plantation. All three brothers were prominent members of colonial Virginia society. Both eldest brothers held seats in the House of Burgesses, and the youngest served on the Council of State, was Treasurer of Virginia, and participated in the Revolutionary War.

Early Drawing of College of William and Mary

During the War, American forces serving under General Wayne met British regulars under General Cornwallis at the Battle of Greenspring. The battle took place on the property of the Church of the Main, where the American forces were outnumbered and strategically retreated towards Yorktown. Around forty total casualties were suffered in the foray, including French sodliers under General Lafayette.

In 1788, Edward’s share of the Main was purchased from the College of William and Mary by his son John.

Further Reading

Selby, John E., and Don Higginbotham. The Revolution in Virginia, 1775-1783. Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, 2007.

Morgan, Timothy E. Williamsburg: A City That History Made. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.

Lytle, Richard M. The Soldiers of America’s First Army, 1791. Scarecrow Press, 2004.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Church on the Main V-46,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Rt. Rev. James Madison, D.D.” NYPL Digital Gallery, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Early Drawing of the College of William and Mary,” The American Cyclopaedia, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources link not available

Indian School at the College of William and Mary W-229

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


Using funds from the estate of British scientist Robert Boyle, the College of William & Mary established a school to educate young Indian men in 1697, just four years after the college’s founding. To encourage enrollment, in 1711 Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood began remitting tributes for area tribes who sent students. Students from tribes outside Virginia also enrolled. The Brafferton was constructed in 1723 to house the school, which provided education in reading and writing English, arithmetic and religion. The American Revolution caused British financial support to cease in 1776, and soon the school closed.

Further Research

Brafferton Building, College of William and Mary Campus

Upon Sir Robert Boyle’s death in 1691, funds from his estate were used to purchase Brafferton Manor in Yorkshire, which was then used to donate money from its revenue to support the newly formed College of William and Mary. There were two other buildings put up on the college grounds in addition to their center ground. The Brafferton Manor was then converted into a building to educate the local Native American populace in 1723 (Dickon and Nichol, 11-13). It would remain an active until the Revolutionary War, where funds had been cut and the school was closed down (Lancaster, 15).

Alexander Spotswood

The school had been made up of a mix of both Indian boys and white children from Williamsburg and the outlying tribes around the town. They would be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic (W&M Quarterly, Vol. IV, 73). The Native Americans would also be taught to spread the word of God and to aid in converting the other Native Americans around Williamsburg (History of the College of William and Mary, Vol. 258, 29). In the Civil War, both Confederate and Union forces used the Brafferton. Those who were at the college at the time had primarily joined the Confederate forces, and the Brafferton became a makeshift hospital and barracks. It was then taken over by Union troops in 1862 and would be held as a Union fort up to 1865 (Dickon and Nichol, 22).

In 1915, the Brafferton was used as college dormitories (Lancaster, 15) but it is currently being used as the offices of the president and the provost of the College of William and Mary (The College of William and Mary).

Further Reading

The College of William and Mary. “The Brafferton”. William and Mary. (Accessed April 12, 2012).

Dickon, Chris. The College of William and Mary. New York: Arcadia Publishing, 2007.

Lancaster, Robert A. Jr. Historic Virginia Homes and Churches. Philadelphia: JB Lippencott Company, 1915.

Randolph, JW, and English. The History of the College of William and Mary. Richmond: Main Street, 1874.

Tyler, Lyon G, edit. The William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XIV. Richmond: Whittet and Shepperson, Publishers, 1906.

Photo Credits

“Alexander Spotswood,” Encyclopedia Virginia, accessed May 2, 2012).

“Brafferton House,” The College of William and Mary, (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “Indian School at the College of William and Mary W-229,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

 View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available

First Balloon Flight in Virginia W-40

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


On May 7, 1801, J.S. Watson, a student at William and Mary, wrote a letter detailing attempts of flying hot air balloons on the Court House Green. The third balloon, decorated with sixteen stars, one for each of the existing states, and fueled with spirits of wine, was successful. Watson wrote, “I never saw so great and so universal delight as it gave to the spectators.” This is the earliest recorded evidence of aeronautics in the commonwealth.

Further Research

The Brothers De Montgolfier

In November of 1783, the Montgolfier brothers launched the first manned hot air balloon flight in France. It was a thirty minute flight that went over 8,000 feet into the air. This was an achievement that added to their prestige with their previous exploits, which explains why the French word for hot air balloon is la montgolfiere (Haven 2006, 76).

Another man who made his name with the use of the hot air balloon was Joseph Shelton Watson in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was born in 1780 and died at the age of 25 in September of 1805. A collection of his letters had been compiled from his time at the College of William and Mary between 1798 and 1801. In his letter that is dated April 1, 1801, he tells his brother David about his construction of a hot air balloon. “I have been engaged in for several evenings in the construction of an Air-balloon. I’ll let you know in my next whether it succeeds” (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 166).

Balloon Flight

Ballooning had been an active hobby at the college. Even prior to JS Watson’s attempts to build a balloon, Thomas Jefferson had had brought back the concept with detailed explanations after the Montgolfier’s successes in France in the 1784. The Balloon Club had been organized under a science professor on campus known as Reverend James Madison. in the Spring of 1786, the club had begun to succeed in building their own hot air balloons (Crouch 1983, 99).

The College of William and Mary

“Who would have supposed a few years past that… the bold aeronaut should dare to attempt excursions in so rare a Medium, and even be able to direct his course nearer to the Wind than the best Sailing Vessels. It is probable that these aerostatic machines will in time be applied to other purposes than a mere Philosoph. Experiment, tho in that respect alone they are certainly very valuable. Yet I have seen no result of observations made by them, relating to several matters for which they seem particularly adopted. Such as the rate of decrease in the density of the atmosphere at different Elevations, also the Rate in which its Temperature varies, Meteors in general, Propagations of Sounds, Descent of bodies, etc., are all proper subject of Investigation, and which no doubt will be investigated as those Machines are more perfected (The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1921).”

Further Reading

Crouch, Tom D. The Eagle Aloft : Two Centuries of the Balloon in America. New York: Smithsonian Institute, 1983.

Haven, Kendall. One Hundred Greatest Science Inventions of All Time. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, 2006.

“Letters of Reverend James Madison, President of the College of William and Mary, to Thomas Jefferson,” William and Mary Quarterly (April 1925).

“Letters from William and Mary College, 1798-1801.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 29, no. 2 (April, 1921): 166-169. (accessed April 12, 2012).

Photo Credits

“Balloon Flights,” Circling Hawk Paragliding, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“The Brothers De Montgolfier,” Aeronautics Learning Laboratory for Science, Technology and Research, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“The College,” The College of William and Mary, (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “First Balloon Flight in Virginia W-40,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources link not available