Gloucester County Virginia GenWeb

County History


Gloucester County's rich history actually dates from just after the settlement at Jamestown in 1607.  Though the county would not be formed until 1651, historical events occurred on these lands that were instrumental to the colony's survival.  When the English settlers arrived at Jamestown, the fortress of Chief Powhatan, Chief of the Werowocomoco, was located on the north side of the river, on land that is now in Gloucester County.  If the legends are true, it was here that Princess Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, saved Captain John Smith's life.  It was Captain John Smith who proclaimed, "Heaven and earth never framed a better place for man's habitation," perhaps an early forerunner of "the land of the life worth living", Gloucester County's motto today.

Some Charles River County land patents were granted as early as 1639, but the land area that was to become Gloucester County was not considered safe for settlement until after 1644.  George Washington's great-grandfather received a York County land patent in 1650 for land that became a part of Gloucester the following year. 

When Gloucester County was formed from York County in 1651, it consisted of four parishes: Abingdon, Kingston, Petsworth, and Ware.  (Kingston parish became Mathews County in 1791.) 

Many believe that the county was named for Henry, Duke of Gloucester, third son of Charles I.  Others think the county was named for the County of Gloucester in England.  "Gloucester" is pronounced "GLOSS-ter" in New England, but in Virginia it is pronounced "GLAW-ster", in the English tradition.

These lands were a major tobacco-producing area in the 1600's and 1700's.  During this time, many imposing plantation homes and grand private estates were established.  A number of these fine colonial homes remain in almost perfect condition.

One of the only eight churches of colonial Virginia was Abingdon Episcopal Church in Gloucester County, and it is still standing today.  It is believed that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson worshipped here, often at the same service.  Washington's maternal grandmother's home (still an active residence today) was in Gloucester, and Jefferson spent many nights in Gloucester at Roswell, the home of his friend, John Page.  (See the section on Historical Places for more information about these places.)

Gloucester's role during the American Revolution was a pivotal one.  The southern tip of the Gloucester County peninsula extends into the York River and is directly across from Yorktown.  This finger of land, named Tyndall's Point for Captain John Smith's mapmaker, Robert Tyndall, became known as Gloucester Point at the time of the Revolution.  A fortification existed here already, built to protect the waterways of Virginia.  The British Army refortified the point in August 1781, and British forces occupied the point for much of the War.  Gloucester Point is the site of the "Second Surrender" by General Charles Lord Cornwallis to General George Washington at Yorktown.

Gloucester County's contribution to the history of the colony, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and to our Nation, has been substantial.

Gloucester County Seal 
The Gloucester County seal was found by Robert Robins, formerly of Ware Neck, Gloucester.  It was confirmed by the board of Supervisors in 1974 as the official seal of the county.  Two impressions of the official county seal were found, though they seem similar, they appear to have been made from different seals.  Both carried the design of a beehive on a stand in the center of a circular seal with the inscription Gloucester County Virginia around the rim.  Robins found the seal in the pension application file of Lt. Joshua Singleton of Gloucester, a veteran of the American revolution.  One of the seals was found on an affidavit sworn on August 8, 1832, and the other was affixed to a certified record on March 27, 1845.  According to a research conducted by Mrs. Roland Lewis, member of the Historical Committee, the beehive, is representative of the unity and labor of a colony, or the unity of a community working together.  The use of the symbol dates back to 407 A.D.



The Genealogy of Gloucester County


Charles River County, Original Shire, established 1634


Name Changed to York County in 1642/43


Gloucester County formed in 1651



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Gloucester County VAGenWeb



Copyright Tami Ramsey & Gloucester County VAGenWeb 2004-2009