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Chapter 1


WHEN adventurers from the Samiz Constant, Goodspeed, and Discovery landed in the "Countrey of Apamatica" on May 8, 1607, the men who achieved the first permanent English settlement in the New World set foot upon territory that may have been in the present Dinwiddie County. Here Captain Christopher Newport and his little band that dared to cross the Atlantic in search of fame and fortune met the Appomattox Indians and their queen, Opussoquionuske, described first as a "fatt, lusty, manly woman" and later as "a comely yong Salvage." Because the point of land made by the confluence of the James and Appomattox rivers seemed too exposed a place for safety, the pioneers remained but four days and then, retracing their course, settled at Jamestown. The seating of land, therefore, in the area later to become Dinwiddie, was not accomplished for a number of years.


The Appomattox, whose chief town was visited by the white men early in that eventful month of May 1607, extended their domain throughout present Dinwiddie. They were a rather thrifty folk and excellent agriculturists. Thomas Dale in 16 1 1 referred to the abundance of corn grown along the James. It is known that Queen Opussoquionuske had more than a hundred acres of the valuable grain planted on land later to be within the limits of Petersburg. Though the Appomattox were not among the fiercest of the Indians, they did not at first extend a hearty welcope to their Maytime visitors. "At our landing," wrote (( Captain George Percy, there came many stout and able Savages, to resist us with their Bowes and Arrowes, in a most warlike manner: with their swords at their backes beset with sharpe stones, and pieces of Yron able to cleave a man in sunder. Amongst the rest, one of the chiefest, standing before them crosslegged, with his Arrow readie in his bow in one hand, and taking a Pipe of Tobacco in the other, with a bold uttering of his speech, demanded of us, [of] our being there, willing us to bee gone. Wee made signes of peace; which they perceived in the end, and let us land in quietness."

Friendly relationship established, the Appomattox were agreeable enough. When the colonists had settled themselves at Jamestown, they made several exploratory expeditions that brought them into the "Countrey of the Apamatica*" On one of these journeys, wrote Captain John Smith, the Queen again "kindely intreated us;" and on another she brought him water to wash his hands, "a Turkie cock, and breade to eate." The Nottoway, whose villages were scattered along the Nottoway and Blackwater rivers, also roamed across the area that is now Dinwiddie. While the Jamestown settlers were enduring the birth pangs of the nation, the area of Dinwiddie remained in possession of the Indians. New settlers arrived; supply boats came to Virginia and turned their noses homeward; John Smith sent to the London Company his "rude answer," demanding that his chiefs in England-instead of requiring a lump of gold, assurance that the South Sea had been discovered, and that one member of the Roanoke Lost Colony had been found-send "thirty carpenters, husbandmen, gardners, fishermen, blacksmiths, masons and diggers up of trees" to aid the colonists; the settlers endured the starving time of 1609-10 and were saved by the arrival of Lord Delaware; and John Rolfe made the cultivation of tobacco profitable to the colony.


When the four "corporacouns" were formed in 1619, the area now Dinwiddie lay within Charles City Corporation. The year the House of Burgesses came into being, the charter that had been granted the London Company in 1606 and by the authority of which settlement had been made gave to Virginians small hope of gain. Though men were expected to work in the new land, the fruit of their labors belonged to those busi- ness men of England who had financed the expedition across the Atlantic. The charter of 1609 was better than the first in some respects but worse in others. It was under the charter of 1612 that a measure of self government was made possible. However, the dawning of a better day for the colonists was postponed by trickery; and the new government did not come about until 1619, when at last settlers were given tracts of land to be tilled for their own profit and were permitted to share in the making of laws by electing representatives to a legislature, known as the House of Burgesses and corresponding to the House of Delegates of today. The Council (which corresponded roughly to the Senate), the House of Burgesses, and the governor made up the Colonial General Assembly. The four corporations were divided into eleven plantations, each to elect two delegates to the House of Burgesses.


Because no grant of land was made until 1638 in that part of Charles City Corporation to become Dinwiddie and because until much later no one came here to live, the area escaped the many tragedies that marked the early days of colonization. The most terrible of these was the Massacre of 1622, in which 365 persons lost their lives and which reduced the number of the colonists by one-third. Since the marriage in 1614 of Powhatan's little daughter, Pocahontas, to John Rolfe, there had been peace between Indians and pale-faced intruders, for the great chief ruled with an iron hand the tribes that made up the powerful Powhatan Confederacy. Therefore the settlers had relaxed their vigilance and had spread their plantations along both sides of the James River. But Pocahontas had died in 1617 on her visit to England; and Powhatan had been succeeded the next year by his brother, Opechancanough, whose hatred for the white man could not be appeased. The new chief, now absolute dictator of the confederacy, planned his wholesale slaughter with evil cunning. The Indians were to be scattered throughout the settlements, all ready to strike at the same hour. Had there not been one Indian who was loyal to his white friends, the colony might have been completely wiped out. At the plantation of Richard Pace, across the river from Jamestown, lived Chanco, an Indian lad converted to the Christian faith. Chanco revealed the plot to his master. Whereupon Pace provided for the safety of his family and "before day rowed to Jamestowne" and told the governor what Opechancanough had planned. According to Captain John Smith, who recounted the story as he heard it in England and who was given to a bit of exaggeration, thousands were saved "by this one converted Infidel." Nevertheless, it was many a year before Virginia completely recovered from the disaster.

But men and women of the colony were made of sturdy stuff. Women there were in 1622 in considerable numbers. A few had been trickling in from the earliest days, and in 1620 and 162 1 a hundred and fifty maidens had crossed the Atlantic to become the wives of the lonely men. The courage of the adventurers was not to be daunted by starving times and British injustice and Indian massacres. They had come to achieve personal liberty and self-government, and achieve both ends they would. When the London Company was dissolved in 1624-thus making Virginians directly responsible to the crown-and no provision was made for the House of Burgesses, that independent body went right on holding its sessions, though it did not receive royal recognition until 1628. In 1635 when a high-handed governor by the name of John Harvie dissolved the General Assembly, the House of Burgesses not only went on meeting but also succeeded in having Harvie "thrust out."


In the meantime the four corporations had been replaced by eight shires or counties. This governmental change took place in 1634. Though there were still no grants in the Dinwiddie area, the present county Gy in Charles City County. The first patent for land near the falls of the James-not far from Petersburg-was recorded at Charles City Courthouse in the name of one Nathaniel Tatum. The year was 1638, and the number of acres one hundred. Three years later Nathaniel Tatum added 500 acres to his holdings in the wilderness. Another man, however, had taken up 500 acres of Dinwiddie land in 1639. He was Edward Prince - an important person in the colony, who later represented Charles City County in the House of Burgesses.


Again the colonists had settled into a fool's paradise. The whites had increased in numbers. They were raising tobacco for export and enough food to be independent of the Indians. Besides, there had been no uprising for more than a score of years, and Opechancanough was surely too old for another vengeful attack. Virginians had reckoned, however, with-, out full knowledge of the old chief, whose infirm body housed a mind retentive of hatred and grown more cunning with the passing years. ' Accordingly, the Massacre of 1644 took the colonists completely by sur prise and resulted in the murder of three hundred whites. Governor Berkeley dealt with the Indians promptly and courageously. It was not, however, until two years after the massacre that Opechancanough was captured and brought to Jamestown, where he was shot by a sentry appointed to guard him.


The Indian Massacre in 1644 was directly responsible for the settlement of the Dinwiddie area. With the exception of the settlement that had been made on the Eastern Shore, the plantations of the colonists had clung fairly close to the banks of the James River. The massacre showed clearly the necessity for frontier fortifications. So it came about that in 1645 the General Assembly passed an act establishing a chain of forts at the fall line of the rivers-Fort Charles at the present site of Richmond, Fort Royal1 at Parnunkey, Fort James at the ridge of the Chickahominy, and Fort Henry at the falls of the Appomattox. The quaint words of the act clearly set forth the purpose for which Fort Henry was erected:

Be it enacted for the defense of the inhabitants on the southside of James River and the prevention of the great releife and subsistance to the Salvages by ffishing in Bristoll alias Appomattocke River, as also for the cutting down their corne or perfonneing any other service upon them. That there be a ffort forthwith erected, att the Falls of the said Appomattock River, nominated fforte Henry, and forty-five soldiers raised from the inhabitants from Basses choy& upwards, including the said Basses choice:

Then it was that one of the most interesting of colonial personalities stepped to the center of the Virginia stage. The services of Abraham Wood were immediately "employed att fforte Henery." Little is known of Wood's origin or of his family. A lad named Abraham Wood had come to Virginia on the Margaret and John in 1620 as an indentured servant and in 1623 was in the service of Captain Samuel Mathews. The 1625 muster of the colony's inhabitants that places Wood at Denbigh Plantation gives his age as ten years, but it is not clear whether this was his age in 1625 or in 1620 when he was brought to the colony. This boy has been accepted by historians as the distinguished man of later years. From 1638 until 1680 the records give a fairly connected account of his career. With the possible exception of Berkeley and Bacon he was outranked by none of his contemporaries. In 1638, 1639, and 1642 he is found busily patenting land in Charles City and Henrico counties. The establishment of Fort Henry, however, gave him his first big opportunity, for which he was apparently ready. In 1646 the General Assembly enacted That Capt. Abraham Wood whose service hath been employed att fforte Henery, be the undertaker for the said fforte, unto whome is granted sixe hundred acres of land for him and his heirs for ever; with all houses and edifices belonging to the said fforte, with all boats and amunition att present belonging to the said fforte, Provided that he the said Capt. Wood do maintayne and keepe ten men constantly upon the said place for the terme of three yeares, duringe which time he the said Capt. Wood is exempted from all publique taxes for himselfe and the said tenn persons.

Five hundred acres of the land granted to Wood were included in the 1639 patent of Edward Prince. They had passed, however, to Thomas Pitt, probably because Prince had allowed his grant to lapse. In order to be quite just, the General Assembly further enacted that "whereas Mr. Thomas Pitt hath a former grant for the said land whereon the forte is built, As alsoe part of the said land hereby granted. It is thought fitt and enacted, That the said Thomas Pitt shall receive a reasonable satisfaction of the countrey for the same."

Fort Henry not only was an effective defense against Indian attacks but became a fur trading post and center of frontier life. It was the means of maintaining peaceful relationship between settlers and aborigines. Indicative of the regimentation of tribes along the James is an act passed by the General Assembly in October 1648, requiring "that upon any occasion of Message to the Cov'r, or trade, The . . . Indians doe repair to fforte Henery alias Appamattucke fforte, . . . at which . . . the aforesayd badges of striped stuffe are to be and remaine." Garrison forces were changed at times by order of the Assembly; county militia came at the call of the commander to march and countermarch and to practice musketry in the fields above the river; and rangers, beating about the country for roaming savages, made the stockade their headquarters. Here also came Indian chiefs, bearing gifts and trailed by retinues of their braves, some from distant tribes staying for days to trade and treat with Wood and to talk of the unknown country that lay beyond the mountains. They told of strange bearded men who long before had built their walled brick towns far to the south-richly dressed and wearing - glittering ornaments and red hats; of even stranger men, who wore long, dark robes without ornaments and told of the Great Spirit worshipped by the white men.


Just across the broad bed of the river, its muddy waters dashing and churning around the great boulders that marked the granite shelf of the fall line, were the sprawling villages and cornfields of the Appomattox Indians. Driven here when their habitations and crops at the mouth of the river were destroyed for the second time in 1623 by Captain Percy as part of a mass drive to remove all Indians beyond reach of the settle- - ments, the Appomattox had become intelligent and faithful runners and guides for Wood and for trading expeditions outfitting at the post for long journeys into the wilderness. Some of these traders were employed by Wood, but others were independent agents long established as intermediaries in the fur trade with northern factors, particularly with the Dutch at Manhattan. Their packs bulging with supplies and the - - baubles likely to appeal to the simple tastes of the savages, with bells 1 on horse-collars tinkling, and guided by 30 or 40 men, the caravans filed off southward along wilderness trails, perhaps weeks later to swing around the southern end of mountain ranges and trek northward to the towns of the Cherokee in Tennessee.


Abraham Wood was the pivot about which all the military and industrial activity at Fort Henry revolved. Before becoming the commander of Fort Henry, he had served as burgess from Henrico County. Though he did not stand for election as a burgess from Charles City until 1654, it is scarcely probable that he kept his fingers out of politics. For a time, however, he concentrated upon the exploration of unknown lands.

The colonists continued to be curious concerning the westward lands, though fear of the Indians for many years prevented discoveries. Upon the petition of Walter Austin, Joseph Johnson, Rice Hooe, and the Walter Chiles who seven years later took up land in the Dinwiddie area, the General Assembly gave "leave and encouragement to undertake the discovery of a new river or unknowne land bearing southerly from Appomattake river." The proposed expedition seems not to have materialized, however. So Abraham Wood holds the unchallenged distinction of exploring territory about which the colonists imagined much but knew little.

A troop consisting of Abraham Wood, Edward Bland, Captain Elias Pennant, Sackford Brewster, and Henry Newcombe and Robert Farmer, servants of Wood and Bland respectively, with "an Appamattuck war captaine" named Pyancha as guide and four packhorses laden with equipment and provisions, filed out of the little stockade on August 27, 1650, "intending a southwestern discovery." Tuscarora villages in what is now North Carolina appear to have been the destination of the party; and its leaders, particularly Bland, seem to have had more than casual interest in spying out land for future colonization. The Occaneechi Trading Path, veering southwest from the fort, seems to have been the trail followed by the expedition.


Edward Eland's account of the journey is detailed and entertaining. The party, guided by Indians, visited the towns of the aborigines, following Indian paths or blazing new trails. On the evening of the fifth day, the expedition reached the Roanoke, a short distance below the falls. This great stream, '(exceeding deepe and four hundred paces broad," deemed worthy to bear the name of Bland, keeper of the journal, was christened Blandina, a name bestowed also on the Indians whose villages were nearby. Although the savages appeared friendly, having come with gifts of roasting ears and sturgeon soon after camp had been made the night before, the whites felt there was treachery in the air. Accordingly, they delayed going to the Indian quarters made ready for them but went six miles up river to view the falls and to inspect the huge trap where the savages killed sturgeon. Along the way they came on "severall nreate heapes of bones," at sight of which the Blandina Indian with them b "sat downe and was much discontented, in so much that he shed teares." Asked about the bones and the grief of his companion, the Indian guide said that Opechancanough came here seeking revenge for the murder of his agents and, with 400 warriors, slew 240 of the Blandina Indians. Indian treachery now took a more serious turn, even the guide joining in the ill will. Fearing that attack was not far off, the party decided to return to the settlements. The journey back to Fort Henry was made by a different and shorter route so that villages of unfriendly Indians might be avoided. Riding hard all day and sleeping "with swords girt, and our ~ u n s and Pistols by us," while the guide stood watch, the explorers reached the fort without mishap on the evening of the fourth day.


Edward Bland sailed at once to London to interest investors in the fair lands of Virginia. Abraham Wood, however, returned to Fort Henry - to take part in important colonial affairs. In 1652 he was elected burgess from Charles City County. Political disturbances in England were being reflected in Virginia. Oliver Crornwell and his Puritanical Roundheads had ascended to power. Charles I had lost his head. Governor William Berkeley, intensely loyal to the crown, had refused to recognize Cromwell and had extended the son of the dead king an invitation to make Virginia his home. When Virginia had been forced to recognize the new order in England, Governor Berkeley had retired to his country home, Green - Spring, near Jamestown. Then, strangely enough, Virginia entered upon a period of complete independence. England, having no time to bother about possessions across the water, left the colony free to manage its own affairs.

In these years Abraham Wood's trade with the Indians must have been profitable. Apparently, the Indians were behaving themselves in such manner as not to disturb the garrison at Fort Henry. Though there is no proof that Wood immediately continued his explorations, in November 1652 the General Assembly gave him permission to explore "where no English have ever bin and discovered nor have particular trade," and he sent to London at about that time for a large amount of trading goods.


Besides Abraham Wood, several men connected with the area of future Dinwiddie deserve a place in history. The Walter Chiles who, with Walter Austin, Rice Hooe, and Joseph Johnson, contemplated in 1642 the discovery of "a new river or unknowne land, bearing southerly from the Appomattox River," and who in 1649 took up land near the falls of the Appomattox, had a career as interesting as that of Abraham Wood. In 1638 he was granted 400 acres in that part of Charles City County now Prince George-"50 acres being due for his own personal adventure, 50 for his wife Elizabeth, 50 for his son William, 50 for his son Walter, and 200 for the transportation of four other persons to the colony:" namely, Henry Fulton, John Govey, John Shaw, and Sarah Cole. Other grants, including the one to land now in Dinwiddie, were recorded in later years.

Though Walter Chiles may never have explored "unknowne lands," - he was active in politics and on the sea. From 1641 onward he is found in the House of Burgesses, representing first Charles City County and then James City County. Despite the opposition of Governor Bennett, Chiles was elected speaker of the house-an honor he was wise enough to decline. On July 5, 1652 the governor dispatched a note to the 6 ( burgesses, that day convening, declaring that he did not desire to in- - trench upon the right of the Assemblies in the free choice of a Speaker, nor undervalue Left. Col. Chiles," but that it did not seem "so proper nor - - so convenient at this time to make choice of him, for that there is something to be agitated in the Assembly concerning a ship lately arrived, in which Col. Chiles hath some interest ." Never theless, the record states, "Left. Col. Chiles was chosen the next day, by a plurality of votes, Speaker of the Assembly." In declining the office, Walter Chiles used as his reason "extraordenarie occasions in regarding to the dispatch of some ship- ping now in the country, in which he is much interested." It was obviously to the advantage of Chiles not to be speaker at that session, for he was seeking reparation from the Assembly f& damages he had sustained. Actively engaged in trade with the Dutch, he had sailed from Virginia to Rotterdam in January of the year before. On his return early in 1652 aboard his ship, The Fame of Virginia, he put into port on the coast of Accomack County. Later, on his way to James City, he was pursued and captured by British officers bearing Cromwell's commission, who declared that Chiles "had no license from Parliament and was bound with a cargo for Brazil." Chiles appealed to the authorities of t (( Northampton County, arguing that the seizure was contrarie to ye peace of this countrye and also cont'y to ye agreem't made by ye Com'rs that were appointed by Ye Keepers of Ye Libertyes of England and ye damage of ye pet'r towe thousand pounds sterling" -a sum that amounted to about $50,000 of money today. Though the court ordered The Fame of Virginia to be released, the British sailed away with it. ' Walter Chiles was suffering, moreover, the fate that befell most colonial shippers during the period of the Commonwealth. Likely as not, the British officers were guilty of piracy and not authorized by Cromwell. Chiles laid his case before the burgesses, who somewhat repaid his loss by granting him for 400 the ship Leqoldas, with all "its guns, tackle, apparel, and Furniture." According to the record, "said ship" had been confiscated for violation of the navigation laws. Another adventurer identified with the early days at Fort Henry was Captain John Flood, official Indian interpreter for the colony. Among his several homes was one situated near the fort. Flood came to Virginia in 1610. With his wife, Margaret, who arrived later, he was living in 1625 at Jordan's Journey, where the Hopewell Airport is now located. He served off and on in the House of Burgesses. Having quickly learned the Indian tongues, he was of great service to the colonists in negotiations of all sorts.

It is safe to conjecture that a man of Abraham Wood's vitality was active during the years following the expedition of 1650. With the restoration of the Stuarts in England, Virginia passed into the darkest era of its colonial history. Unfortunately, during this period nothing is known of Wood. That he was responsible for the Batts and Fallam Expedition in 1671 is indication enough that he had not been inactive. Soon other settlers were taking up land in the neighborhood of Fort Henry. It was in 1649 that Walter Chiles patented his 813 acres. In 1665 Robert Coleman took up a 450-acre tract and three years later another tract of 283 acres. Other patentees were Robert Burgesse, John Maies, and James Thweat, whose grants are recorded in 1666, 1668, and 1670 respectively. Meanwhile the period of the Commonwealth had come to an end; the English throne had been restored to Charles 11, and the governorship of Virginia to Sir William Berkeley. The old governor, always a despot, had lost the benevolence that had characterized his first administration. During his second term of office he was high-handed and autocratic. The right to name representatives in the House of Burgesses, which the colonists had won by the hardest of struggles, was utterly lost during the 1660's, for Berkeley issued no writ for an election. It is likely, however, that the frontiersmen about Fort Henry were too busy to be greatly concerned with government and politics. Indians in the northern part of the colony were giving trouble; consequently, the stockade needed to be well manned and in order, so that the people might be safe and the fur trade undisturbed.


Abraham Wood, moreover, was looking toward other explorations. Vaguely the colonists knew that a sea lay beyond the western horizon, separated from the Tidewater by vast meadowlands and lofty mountains. This Indian Sea, South Sea, Western Sea - as it was variously called should provide a short route to Asia and the Indies, and its bays and inlets doubtless dipped into the rich interior fur country then being profitably exploited by the French. Because the great sea could not be far away and because its finding offered adventure and much financial gain, the colonists were eager to press westward. Governor Berkeley, who was both administrator and business man, greatly desired to explore the unknown. As commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Company, he actively promoted expeditions westward. John Lederer, his first agent, failed to penetrate the wilderness beyond the Blue Ridge, but Abraham Wood agent of the second venture - supervised a successful enterprise. A little party, commissioned and sent out under his auspices, was to make the first known passage of the Appalachian Mountains and to claim for the English king the region drained by waters that empty into the Gulf of Mexico, a region then claimed by the French. Leaders of this expedition were Captain Thomas Batts, well known to the colony and, with his brother Henry, a patentee of large tracts of land along the Appomattox River; Thomas Wood, probably a kinsmzn of Abraham Wood; and Robert Fallam. Others in the party were one Jack Weason, supposedly Wood's indentured servant, and Perecute, a courageous and faithful "great man of the Appamattucks." Seven other Appomattox Indians, sent by Wood to join the expedition, overtook the party on the morning of the fifth day. The commission that Wood gave the leaders stated as objective of the expedition "the finding out the ebbing and flowing of the Waters on the other side of the Mountaines in order to the discovery of the South Sea." Fallam kept a brief journal, from which it is possible to trace the course of the expedition and to learn of happenings along the way.

The little party, all mounted, set out from the Appomattox village on the river opposite Fort Henry on the first of September 1671. Striking off due west from the Great Trading Path of the Occaneechi, they arrived on the afternoon of the fourth at Saponi villages on the Staunton River. There, "being joyfully and kindly received with firing of guns and plenty of provisions," they spent the night. The next morning Thomas Wood was so dangerously ill with the flux that he was left - in care of the kindly savages. Continuing due west, they had on the seventh day out from Fort Henry their first glimpse of the mountains and the next day passed over the first foothill of the Blue Ridge. On the eighth day they saw initials burned into the smooth bark of a tree trunk. s all am sets ddwn this momentous incident simply: "About one of the clock we came to a Tree mark'd in the past with a coal M. A. N. I." Three hours later they were at the foot of their first mountain. After / passing its steep rocky sides and twice crossing bends of the Staunton River, they continued westward; climbed one of the irregular, broken ridges that break the surface of the valley; crossed "a lovely descending valley" about six miles in width; and, again descending sharply, came  to the Toteras town. Farther along they came on trees marked with the same letters they had seen on the eastern slope "and several other scratchments." They reached the longsought westward-flowing waters on September 13, 1671. Though the marked trees proved that they were not the first white men to pass the great eastern continental divide, they were the first to leave an account of the journey. Now for a day or two the way was over rich ground watered by streams that flowed through "bright meadows with grass about man's hight." Turning homeward, they looked back from a hilltop and saw "a fog arise and a glimmering light as from water." Fallam says, "We supposed this to be a great Bay," and they went on with light hearts, confident that they had reached the tidal waters of the western sea. At length, "hungry, wet, and weary," they came to the Appomattox town from which they had set out twenty-seven days earlier. On the first day of October they arrived at Fort Henry. When it is considered that the party followed an Indian trail through wilderness country, up and down mountains, crossing broad valleys, wading streams, sometimes three or four times in a day, that they were delayed by sickness and the necessity of hunting game for food, the journey of nearly 350 miles in 16 days-more than a third of it on foot seems remarkable.


So it came about that through Abraham Wood of Fort Henry information was given the Tidewater folk about westward and southward country. This first prominent citizen of the land known as Dinwiddie County, though he was growing old, continued to look beyond the fort, the river, and the fertile acres that were bringing him such prosperity as would have been sufficient for a man of less vision. Another expedition was soon to be undertaken solely upon the initiative of Abraham Wood. The story of the trail that was traced into distant Tennessee country and that opened up Virginia trade with the Cherokee is preserved in a letter Abraham Wood wrote to his friend, John Richards of London. The leaders of this expedition planned by Wood were James Needham of South Carolina, and Gabriel Arthur, an illiterate but clever lad thought to have been Wood's indentured servant. Accompanied by eight Appomattox Indians, they set off from Fort Henry on April 10, 1673. Wood saw that the saddlebags were packed with provender for three months. However, the expedition was threatened by the animosity of strong frontier tribes to the establishment of white trade with isolated interior tribes, for such direct dealing would - put an end to the profits they enjoyed as middlemen and perhaps supply numerous subject tribes with firearms. This April tenth expedition was turned back at the Occaneechi villages but again set out on May seventeenth. At length the adventurers reached the villages of the Sitteree Indians on the headwaters of the Yadkin, and struck due west through the great North Carolina Blue Ridge, reached the mountain's narrow crest, 1 - and descended the western slope to the headwaters of the New River. Now on foot, all but one of the horses having died, the travelers continued due west through a country abounding in game-"turkies, deere, ellkes, beare, woolfe and other vermin very tame." After a week's rest for himself and horse, Needham started on a hurried return trip to Fort Henry, leaving Arthur with the Indians to learn their language and to cultivate their goodwill. On this trip he and the Fort Henry Indian had as companions twelve Tomahitans, four of these - being-strangely enough-squaws; the women, in Indian fashion, probably took the place of This mixed company reached ' ~ o r t Henry on September tenth and were welcomed by Wood with thanks to God for his agent's safety.

Following nine days at Fort Henry, the expedition started for the Cherokee country. Wood saw Needham off with high hopes of his successful return in -the spring. However, in January, when Indian rumors came to the fort that Needham had been murdered, Wood sent a runner into the back country to get the facts. Before this emissary returned, however, Henry Hatcher, an independent trader who had lately been with the Occaneechi, came to Fort Henry and told of Needham's murder, naming as his assassin John Hasecoll, an Occaneechi half-breed, known also as Indian John. This scoundrel, "a fat, thick, bluff-faced fellow," was well known to both Wood and Needham, being none other than the Indian who had been with Needham on his first visit to the Cherokee. The party had proceeded more than 70 miles before Indian John's designs began to take shape. Then, near the Saura town, when Needham rebuked an Indian for letting his pack slip while crossing a stream, Indian John had become surly and threatening. After camp was made that night, Needham had decided to restore discipline and, with a gesture of Garlessness, had thrown his hatchet to the ground near the guide, saying: "What, John, are you minded to kill me?" At this the halfbreed had shot the white man through the head. Terrified, the Tomahitans had fallen to their knees bewailing that now the English would be upon them for Needham's death. But the murderer had ripped out Needham's heart with his knife and shouted defiance to "all the English." Then, turning on the cowering Tomahitans, he had ordered them to go on to their village and kill the white man waiting there for Needham's return. With this he had stripped the body and had taken from the expedition packs as much as he could load on the dead leader's horse, had given Needham's sword to one of the Tomahitans and ridden toward the Occaneechi village. There he had boasted of what he had done and displayed the Englishman's pistols. Some of the Tomahitans, hastening home and finding the king away, had dragged Gabriel Arthur to a stake and gathered dry canes from the river's bank to pile at his feet. But, before the pyre was lighted, the king had come back, shot the ringleader, and taken the white boy to the safety of his own house. Soon the time was at hand for tribal marauding parties to go out, not only against white settlements but against enemy tribes. The king commanded Gabriel to go on these raids, promising that later in the spring he would personally conduct him back to his white master. After many adventures, which Wood recounted in his letter, the lad finally reached Fort Henry, where he was welcomed with great rejoicing-


When Abraham Wood died is unknown, and the details of his life are far too meager. Peter Jones, however, who married Wood's daughter, became proprietor of the trading post and was probably in charge during Bacon's Rebellion of 1676. Though Indian depredations were the immediate occasion of the uprising, the people of the colony had long been dissatisfied because of Governor Berkeley's autocratic rule. After voluntary exile during the Croinwellian period, Berkeley had again become governor of Virginia in 1661. During this second administration he issued no call for an election of delegates to the House of Burgesses. The colonists had always contended that taxes should be imposed only by the representatives of the people. In 1670, moreover, an act was passed limiting the voters to landholders only, though the per capita tax was levied against all persons-truly taxation without representation. As a result, the poor became poorer, and the rich richer. In addition, tobacco was bringing a low price. Indignation flared to a white heat when a delegation from Charles City County presented a . petition setting forth grievances and heard from the lips of an irate governor denial of the freemen's right to petition. Leadership for the revolt was found in the person of Nathaniel I Bacon, who settled at Curles Neck in Henrico County in 1674. Almost immediately upon his arrival in the colony he was made a member oE the Council. Though an aristocrat, he at once espoused the cause of the people. The Indians, whose atrocities alarmed the colonists and against whom there was demand that the governor take action, were the militant Susquehannock and Doeg of Maryland and northern Virginia and not the well-mannered trading Indians of Charles City County. The governor, having authorized an expedition, suddenly disbanded the militia. The infuriated people were declaring that the governor, seeking to protect his personal profits derived from the fur trade, was in league with the Indians. Then it was that Nathaniel Bacon took matters in his own hands and demanded that the governor grant him a commission to proceed against the marauders. The governor refused and declared Bacon a rebel. The people of Charles City County then rallied to the support of the young leader.

For months disaster had been predicted, for the omens had been bad. During many nights a blood red comet had flashed through the sky, "streaming like a horse's tail westward . . . and setting towards the northwest." Thousands of pigeons in flight had darkened the sky and, roosting at night, had broken the limbs of great trees. Swarms of flies, "as big as the top of a man's little finger," had risen from holes in the earth and had eaten the leaves of the trees. Apparently, the time had come for action, for certainly no calamity could be worse than the plight of Virginians in that year of 1676.

When the governor saw that the people meant business, he ordered an election - the first that had been held since 1661. Bacon was elected to the House of Burgesses, pardoned by the governor, and reinstated as a member of the Council. That the rebellion was not brought about solely by the uprising of the Indians is proved by the record of Bacon's activities in the legislative halls of Jamestown, for immediately he sought to right the wrongs the people were suffering. Through his efforts suffrage was restored, and laws were enacted requiring frequent election of the vestries of parishes and auditing of public accounts, and prohibiting trade with the Indians, long terms of office, excessive fees, and the sale of liquors.

The rebellion was not to end so quickly, however. Bacon learned that the governor was plotting against him, left Jamestown and concentrated his attack upon the government rather than upon the savages. During the struggle that followed, the governor signed the commission that Bacon had been seeking and shortly thereafter fled to the Eastern Shore. The young leader, then in control, put his liberal laws into practice.

Emboldened by his success, he sent a British guardship to the Eastern Shore to capture Berkeley. The captain, however, betrayed the rebels and turned over the ship and crew to the governor. When Berkeley returned to Jamestown, Bacon stormed the capital, burned it, and issued to the people a proclamation to the effect that, if England should champion the governor's cause, the people must defend their liberties or abandon Virginia. Then he set out upon a tour of the colony. In Gloucester County he died of a fever. Though the rebels, having lost their leader, were apparently defeated, a spark was ignited that has never been extinguished in Virginia.

The fury of the old governor knew no bounds. Among the 20 men he hanged for their part in the rebellion was one citizen of Charles City County, Giles Bland, who lived at Berkeley Plantation closeby Fort Henry. Charles 11, hearing the news, is said to have exclaimed, "That old fool has hanged more men in that naked country than I have done here for the murder of my father." But Sir William Berkeley was recalled to England, where he died within a year. As a result of the rebellion better days dawned for the colony.

Prosperity was not to come to the colony immediately after the departure of Sir William Berkeley, for Charles I1 continued to look to Virginia for the revenues of which he was much in need. Tobacco, therefore, was not only held down in price but was heavily taxed. In 1680 the tobacco crop was large. This meant, of course, still lower prices and still higher taxes. The colonists saw only one solution to their problem: less - tobacco must be grown. The king, however, would have no cessation of planting. Strangely enough, the "Tobacco Rebellion" was led by Robert Beverley, a planter who had sided with Berkeley four years before. Night riders, working after the manner of the Ku Klux Klan of a later day, cut the young plants in the field, utterly defying His Majesty's orders. So Viroinians con tin ued stubbornly to defy oppression and in justice.


The area of Dinwiddie was meanwhile gaining new settlers-men of substance and importance. John Epes had patented 2,550 acres in 1674. In 1683 Abraham Jones took up 1,217 acres; William Low, James Cook, and John Butler patented 1,684 acres in 1684; and Roger Tilman 1,060 acres in 1689. The following year there came into the future Dinwiddie a man who was important in his own right and whose de- scendants figured prominently in later history. His name was John Banister. He was administer of the Church of England and for a time a missionary to the West Indies. A naturalist he had been called, for it seems that his appointment as missionary carried with it not only the responsibility of converting heathen to the Christian faith but also of investigating the plant life of the colonies. The Reverend Mr. Banister lived in Charles City County as early as 1678, but his grant to land on the Appomattox in present Dinwiddie is dated 1690. Before coming to Virginia he had been professor of botany at Oxford University. William Byrd I, that versatile gentleman of many interests, was a close friend of John Banister, and on a visit to England in 1687 discussed with learned botanists and zoologists the collection of specimens Banister had gathered in Virginia. Byrd tried to get his friend financial aid for further investigations. Though the scientists had no money to advance, they requested Mr. Byrd to "represent the thing to Mr. Banister as indeed it is, and let him not be disheartened at our present poverty - but proceed in the Noble design of Improving a Natural Knowledge that comes so near ye Divine which alone can make us rich unto Salvation." The following year Banister's list of the plants of Virginia was published in London. Some of his specimens gathered in seventeenth-century Virginia served as the nucleus of the natural history section of the British Museum.

Meanwhile, Banister was active in the public affairs of the colony. He served as rector of Bristol Parish and as one of the original trustees of the College of William and Mary. His untimely death in 1692 was caused directly by his interest in botany, for he died on one of his expeditions into the wilderness, either from a fall or from a stray bullet shot by one of his companions. His grandson, another John Banister, later made the name illustrious in Dinwiddie County.

The Reverend Mr. Banister held the position of rector of Bristol Parish, which in colonial days was no unimportant post. The Church of England was then the established church not only of the Mother Country but of the colonies as well, and its powers were both religious and secular Virginia was early divided into parishes, to which were given powers now exercised by the state. In 1642 the area of Dinwiddie and part of present Charles City County became Bristol Parish, the boundaries of which were not changed until 1720. The quaint record creating the parish reads as follows:

Be it also enacted and confirmed for the conveniency of the inhabitants on both sides of Appomattock River being farr remote from the parish church of the said plantation upon Appomattock be bounded into a parish by themselves as followeth, to beginn at Causon's ffeild within the mouth of Appomattock River on the eastward side, and at Powell's Creek on the westward side of the river, and so to extend up the river to the falls on both sides and the said parish to be called by the name of Bristoll.


The year 1702 was important. Then it was that Prince George- County, comprising that portion of Charles City County lying south of the James River and stretching to the North Carolina line, was created a separate political subdivision and named in honor of Queen Anne's consort. In 1714 Prince George County, including the present Dinwiddie and much besides, listed 1,040 tithables - that is, heads of families who were taxed for the support of the colony.

Virginia meantime had been undergoing many changes. In 1699 the capital had been moved from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, soon to be known as Williamsburg. Six years before that important event Parson James Blair, having journeyed to England, had obtained from the crown a charter for the College of William and Mary-the second institution of higher learning to be founded in America. The dawn of the eighteenth century, moreover, brought better days to the colony. The' imagination of the people was fired in 1716 by the expedition beyond the Blue Ridge that was made by Governor Spotswood and his Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. Since the days of Abraham Wood a few settlers had been trickling toward territory beyond the Tidewater. But little was yet known of the vast westward lands. The Governor's trip was a merry affair, what with the drinking of toasts along the way and comforts of which Abraham Wood's explorers never dreamed. Though Spotswood made no settlement, he advertised land that seemed to be worth the westward journey. After 1716 expansion was in the minds of Virginians.

During the first third of the eighteenth century the problems of the tobacco planters found a measure of solution, for Sir John Randolph son of the pioneer, William Randolph of Turkey Island - traveled to England to present to the king the case of the Virginians who were growing the weed and receiving insufficient rewards therefor. The result was the tobacco inspection law of 1730, which ushered in the era of colonial prosperity.

The portion of Prince George George County later to become Dinwiddie was gaining prestige and influence. After the turn of the century, many new grants of land were recorded One Robert Munford patented vast tracts; William Maies added to his holdings. Other patentees were Nicholas Overbee, John Evans, Peter Wynne, Matthew Mayes, George Tillman, John and Isham Epes, Richard Jones, James Pitillo, William Coleman, Thomas Jones, Thomas Ravenscroft, Matthew Anderson, Joshua Poythress, Klchard Nance, John West, James Thweate, Francis Coleman, John Coleman, William and Thomas Epes, John Banister, and John Sturdevant.


The man, however, who took up the largest tracts was Robert Bolling - important in his own right and notable also because of ancestors and descendants. Pocahontas, as everybody knows, married John Rolfe and left a son, Thomas, who married Jane Poythress and whose daughter, Jane Rolfe, married Robert Bolling ( 1646-1 709). Jane Rolfe Bolling died, however, in 1676, leaving an only son-John Bolling. The Robert Bolling who took up land in the Dinwiddie area between 1706 and 1744 was a descendant of the Robert Bolling who married Pocahontas' granddaughter and of his second wife, Jane Stith. Nevertheless, by a strange tnrn of events the great-great-great-granddaughter of the little Indian princess figured in the history of what is now Dinwiddie County, for Robert Bolling-the son of John Bolling-married Mary Burton and had a daughter whom he named Mary Burton Bolling (1764- 1787). This girl married one Robert Bolling of Petersburg, grandson of the Robert Bolling who early in the eighteenth century began patenting land in the western part of Prince George County. The daughter of Mary Burton Bolling and Robert Bolling - Mary Burton Augusta Bolling - married the distinguished John Banister of Battersea, grandson of the missionary-botanist who took up land in the present Dinwiddie in 1690. But that is getting a trifle ahead of the story.


Now the chronicle deals with the year 1733, when William Byrd I1 envisaged two cities - Petersburg and Richmond. "These two places," he wrote, "being the uppermost landing of James and Appamattux Rivers, are naturally intended for Marts, where the Traffick of the Outer Inhabitants must Center." One of these cities Byrd said should be called Richmond and "the other at the Point of the Appamattuck River" should be "nam'd Petersburgh." William Byrd had good reason to promote Richmond, for land thereabouts had been left to his father by an uncle, William Stegg, and had descended to him. Peter's Point, however, as the old trading post was then called, merely presented to William Byrd its natural advantages and was rated thereby. In A Journey to the Land of Eden, an account of the trip of 1733 taken in connection with establishing the boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina, Byrd commented extensively upon the place later to be the chief town of Dinwiddie. On September the eleventh, having recommended his family "to the protection of the Almighty," he rode to the home of the Colonel Mumford who had taken up much land between 1706 and 1723. There he met Colonel Banister, son of the botanist-missionary. '? stayed with the good Colonel," Byrd wrote, "while Mr. Banister made the best of his way home, to get his equipage ready, in order to join me the next day. After dining plentifully, and wishing all that was good to the household, I proceeded to Major Mumford's, who had also appointed to go along with me." The next day the party added to its numbers none other than Peter Jones, who came "completely accoutered." "Then," said Byrd, "we fortified ourselves with a beef-steak, kissed our landlady for good luck, and mounted about ten. The major took one Robin Bolling with him, as squire of his body, as well as conductor of his baggage. . . . We crossed Hatcher's run, Gravelly run, Stony creek, and in the distance of about twenty miles reached Sapponi chapel, where Mr. Banister joined us. Thus agreeably reinforced we proceeded ten miles further, to Major Embry's, on the south side of Nottoway river."

The trip to the "land of Eden" at an end, William Byrd thanked Major Mumford and Peter Jones "for the trouble they had taken in this long journey" and then "filed off" with his "honest friend, Mr. Banister, to his habitation on Hatcher's run." There, according to Byrd, Banister's "good-humored h little wife was glad to see her runaway spouse returned to safety" and treated the party most hospitably. Shocking it is to relate that the guests who were entertained by this son of a missionary drank "our bottle a little too freely, which had an unusual effect on persons so long accustomed to simple element." The next day, however, William Byrd "wished peace to that house, and departed." Mr. Banister conducted him to Major Mumford's, "and which was more, his wife very obligingly consented to it." Major Mumford, however, was to receive a strange shock because of the "change his pretty wife had suffered in her complexion. The vermilion of her cheeks had given place a little to the saffron, by means of a small tincture of the yellow jaundice." Whereupon Byrd commented ruefully, "I was sorry to see so fair a flower thus faded, and recommended the best remedy I could think of." After pausing an hour or so, the party proceeded to Col. Bolling's, who was so gracious as to send us an invitation." William Byrd includes in his account of the trip a tribute to Colonel Mumford, of whom he says "an honester man, a fairer trader, or a kinder friend this country never produced."

The Major James Mumford - or Munford, as later members of the family prefer - who was host to William Byrd, married Elizabeth Bolling, granddaughter of Robert Bolling and Jane Stith, successor to Pocahontas' granddaughter, Jane Rolfe. Though trying to "keep up with the Joneses" has caused historians to make many a blunder, it is likely that the Peter Jones to whom Byrd refers was the son of the first Peter Jones, who married the daughter of Abraham Wood and who by act of the General Assembly was made commander of Fort Henry in 1675 to succeed his father-in-law. The earliest record of the first Peter Jones is dated 1655, for that year, on the first of June, Abraham Wood made an agreement that was witnessed by Henry Randolph and Peter Jones. Two years later, at a meeting of the militia held at Merchant's Hope, it was ordered that Captain Peter Jones be given command of the company belonging to Coll. Abraham Wood, Esq." In his will, dated January 19, 1721, the first Peter Jones mentions his sons- Abraham, Peter, William, Thomas, John, and Wood-and his daughters, Ann, Margaret, and Martha. Since the will was probated in 1726, the second Peter must have been Byrd's "old friend." Peter's Point, from which Petersburg got its name, was probably so called in the days of the first Peter. The second Peter, however, cooperated with William Byrd in the plans for the future city. Still a third Peter Jones figured in the expansion of the town, when in 1762 an act was passed fir enlarging Petersburg, "now in the County of Dinwiddie, which has since very greatly increased, and become a place of considerable trade; and whereas Peter Jones, gentleman, hath laid off twenty-eight acres of his land adjoining the said town into lots and streets, and hath disposed of several of the said lots, the purchasers whereof have petitioned this present assembly that the same may be added to and made a part of the-said town." But reference to the third Peter Jones advances our story too rapidly .

Though the area of Dinwiddie was no end important and though Petersburg grew, no city arose therein for many years to come. As a matter of fact, no real city was born in the whole colony of Virginia. For some reason - not so strange after all - the settlers preferred the independence of plantation life. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, to which the Pilgrims went 13 years after Jarnestown was founded, brought forth towns; yet the planters in Virginia remained in comparative isolation. In 1662 Governor William Berkeley, yielding to a request from the crown, had endeavored to make Virginians into townsfolk, but to no avail. In 1680 the General Assembly enacted what is known as the Act of Cohabitation, which established 20 "paper" towns. Immediately the crown, for some strange reason, repealed the legislation. Ten years later, however, there was a second Act of Cohabitation. Yet no towns resulted. In 1705, as a special inducement, the General Assembly enacted a law by means of which a town might become a "free borough" when it had achieved as many as 60 families. Yet only Norfolk availed itself of that privilege. Near the falls of the Appomattox were the com- munities of Petersburg and Blandford, laid out in 1748; and, in addition, Pocahontas and Ravenscroft. Not one of the settlements, however, had early ambition to become a town.


Nevertheless, the population in the western part of Prince George County had increased to such an extent that it was deemed necessary in 1744 to form another parish. New grants had been made, and land had been settled. Among the large patents were those to Francis Poythress, William Poythress, and William Sturdevant. Until 1720 Bristol had served the southern part of Henrico, the present Dinwiddie, and the western part of present Prince George. With the organization, however, of Brunswick from Prince George, a slice had been cut from Bristol and constituted a parish for the new county. Yet the ministers still stacked up considerable mileage in the service of their parishioners. It must have been quite a relief to the Reverend Robert Ferguson - rector in 1742 - when Bath Parish was created from the western part of Bristol. The Reverend George Robertson had been rector of Bristol from 1693 to 1740.

Though the area soon to become Dinwiddie County lay chiefly in Bath Parish, its eastern quarter was retained by Bristol. The reason for the creation of Bath and the bounds of the parish are set forth in the following act :

Whereas the inhabitants of the parish of Bristol, in the county of Prince George, labour under great inconveniences, by reason of the small number of tithables in the same; and it is reasonable that part of the adjacent parish of Bath, in which there are a greater number of tithables, should be added and annexed to the said parish of Bristol :

Be it therefore enacted, . . . That from and after the first day of May next ensuing, part of the said parish of Bath, be annexed to, and made part of the said parish of Bristol; and that the bounds thereof, for the future, be established in manner following; that is to say, by a line to begin at Appamattox River, on the east side of Wallace Creek, thence a south course to Surry County Line; which shall always hereafter, be reputed, deemed, and taken, to be the bounds between the said parishes.

The early churches of Bath Parish were Sapony (1725-1726) and Hatcher's Run (1738-1740) both established in Bristol Parish prior to the creation of Bath, and Butterwood (built before 1762). These served major portion of the area that was to become Dinwiddie. Sapony Church was situated in the southern part of Bath, Hatcher's Run in the northern, and Butterwood in the western. Blandford (1734- 1737), now in Petersburg, was a church of Bristol Parish.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, many people had made homes in the western part of Prince George County. 'There were warehouses, prosperous plantations and farms, and inns that cared for travelers going east or west and north or south. Sundry grants of land had been recorded in the area. Among the newcomers were William Starke, William Eppes, Peter Woodlief, Alexander Bolling, John Herbert, Theophilus Feild, Joseph Buffington Darvill, Peter Poythress, and William Skipith. Indeed pioneering days had come to an end. 



*Source:  This is Part I of the book, Dinwiddie County, "The Countrey of the Apamatica"  compiled by the workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Virginia. 

2006  Nola Duffy or individual contributors. No portion of the data available here may be reproduced for further publication without express consent of the original contributor.