First Families of Virginia (FFV) were those families in Colonial Virginia who were socially prominent and wealthy, but not necessarily the earliest settlers.They descended from English colonists who primarily settled at Jamestown, Williamsburg, the Northern Neck and along the James River and other navigable waters in Virginia during the 17th century. These elite families generally married within their social class for many generations and, as a result, most surnames of First Families date to the colonial period.
The American Revolution cut ties with Britain but not with its social traditions. While some First Family members were loyal to Britain, others were Whigs who not only supported, but led the Revolution.Most First Families remained in Virginia, where they flourished as tobacco planters, and from the sale of slaves to the cotton states to the south. Indeed, many younger sons were relocated into the cotton belt to start their own plantations. With the emancipation of slaves during the Civil War and the consequential loss of slave labor, Virginia plantations struggled to turn a profit. The First Families, albeit poorer than before, maintained social and political leadership. Marshall Fishwick says that by the 1950s, "the old-time aristocracy [had] not given up, or sunk into decadence as Southern novelists suggest." They adopted modern agricultural technology and co-opted rich "Yankees" into their upper-class, rural horse-estate society.
English colonists who formed the FFV emigrated to the new Colony of Virginia. Their migration took place from the settlement of Jamestown through the English Civil War and English Interregnum period (1642–1660). Some royalists left England on the accession to power of Oliver Cromwell and his Parliament. Because most of Virginia's leading families recognized Charles II as King following the execution of Charles I in 1649, Charles II reputedly called Virginia his "Old Dominion" – a nickname that endures today. The affinity of many early Virginia settlers for the Crown led to the term "distressed Cavaliers", often applied to the Virginia plantocracy. Some Cavaliers who served under King Charles I fled to Virginia. FFVs often refer to Virginia as "Cavalier Country". These men were offered land or other rewards by King Charles II, but most who had settled in Virginia stayed in Virginia.
Many such early settlers in Virginia were so called "Second Sons". Primogeniture favored the first sons' inheriting lands and titles in England. Second or third sons went out to the colonies to make their fortune, or entered the military and the clergy. Tidewater Virginia evolved as a society descended from second or third sons of Englishmen who inherited land grants or land in Virginia. They formed part of what became the Southern elite in Colonial America.
In some cases, longstanding ties among families in England were carried to the new colony, where they were reinforced by marriage and other relations. For instance, there were ancestral ties between the Spencer family of Bedfordshire and the Washington family; a Spencer secured the land grant later purchased by the Washingtons, where they built their Mount Vernon home. These sorts of ties were common in the early colony, as families shuttled back and forth between England and Virginia, maintaining their connections with the mother country and with each other.
A thin network of increasingly interrelated families made up the planter elite and held power in colonial Virginia. "As early as 1660, every seat on the ruling Council of Virginia was held by members of five interrelated families," writes British historian John Keegan, "and as late as 1775, every council member was descended from one of the 1660 councillors."
The ties among Virginia families were based on marriage. In a pre-Revolutionary War economy dependent on the production of tobacco as a commodity crop, the ownership of the best land was tightly controlled. It often passed between families of corresponding social rank. The Virginia economy was based on slave labor as the colony became a slave society. The landed gentry could keep tight rein on political power, which passed in somewhat orderly fashion from family to family. (In the more modern mercantile economy of the north, social mobility became more prominent. The power of the elite was muted by newcomers who gained wealth in the market economy.)
Pocahontas (1595–1617), a Native American, was the daughter of Chief Powhatan, founder of the Powhatan Confederacy. According to Mattaponi and Patawomeck tradition, Pocahontas was previously married to a Patawomeck weroance , Kocoum, who was murdered by Englishmen when Samuel Argall abducted her on April 13, 1613.Educated among the English of Virginia and converted to Christianity during her captivity in Henricus, Pocahontas married colonist John Rolfe at a church in Jamestown on April 5, 1614. Rolfe had become prominent and wealthy as the first to successfully develop an export cash crop for the colony with new varieties of tobacco. Their only child, Thomas Rolfe, was born on January 30, 1615. He married and had a family: his descendants married into other elite families.
Pocahontas was much celebrated in London, where she was welcomed with great ceremony at the Royal Court. She died young but became legendary as the first Indian from Virginia to become Christian, marry an Englishman, and have a known child from such a marriage. (There were no doubt mixed-race children born to lower-class colonists and Algonquian women, although they may have been neither married nor Christian.) She became an important symbol of friendly Native American-English relations of the Jamestown colony. By virtue of many fictional accounts, her marriage was romanticized and became part of the mythology of early American history.
In 1887, following the Reconstruction era after the Civil War, Virginia Governor Wyndham Robertson wrote the first history of Pocahontas and her descendants, delineating the ancestry of FFV families including the Bollings, Clements, Whittles, Blands, Skipwiths, Flemings, Catletts, Gays, Jordans, Randolphs, Tazewells, and many others.Excluded from this history were 'natural children', mixed-race descendants of unions with slaves.
Families often used surnames as given names, as in the "Johns" of Johns Hopkins University. A mother's maiden name might be used as a "middle name", to document that part of the person's ancestry. For example, Lt. Col. Powhatan Bolling Whittle of the 38th Virginia Infantry, Confederate States Army was an uncle of Matoaka Whittle Sims.
In 1907, the Jamestown Exposition was held near Norfolk to celebrate the tricentennial of the arrival of the first English colonists and the founding of Jamestown. Preservation Virginia, formerly known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, was founded in Williamsburg in 1889 to memorialize Virginia history.In the 20th century, Preservation Virginia emphasized patriotism by highlighting the Founding Fathers that hailed from Virginia.
Some notable family names include:
The Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. It was located on the northeast bank of the James (Powhatan) River about 2.5 mi (4 km) southwest of the center of modern Williamsburg. It was established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 4, 1607 O.S., and was considered permanent after a brief abandonment in 1610. It followed several failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke, established in 1585 on Roanoke Island, later part of North Carolina. Jamestown served as the colonial capital from 1616 until 1699. Despite the dispatch of more settlers and supplies, including the 1608 arrival of eight Polish and German colonists and the first two European women, more than 80 percent of the colonists died in 1609–10, mostly from starvation and disease. In mid-1610, the survivors abandoned Jamestown, though they returned after meeting a resupply convoy in the James River.
The Colony of Virginia, chartered in 1606 and settled in 1607, was the first enduring English colony in North America, following failed attempts at settlement on Newfoundland by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583 and the colony of Roanoke by Sir Walter Raleigh in the late 1580s.
Pocahontas was a Native American woman, belonging to the Powhatan people, notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. She was the daughter of Powhatan, the paramount chief of a network of tributary tribes in the Tsenacommacah, encompassing the Tidewater region of Virginia.
John Rolfe was one of the early English settlers of North America. He is credited with the first successful cultivation of tobacco as an export crop in the Colony of Virginia in 1611.
Edith Wilson was the first lady of the United States from 1915 to 1921 and the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson. She married the widower Wilson in December 1915, during his first term as president. Edith Wilson played an influential role in President Wilson's administration following the severe stroke he suffered in October 1919. For the remainder of her husband's presidency, she managed the office of the president, a role she later described as a "stewardship," and determined which communications and matters of state were important enough to bring to the attention of the bedridden president.
The Powhatan people may refer to any of the indigenous Algonquian people that are traditionally from eastern Virginia. All of the Powhatan groups descend from the Powhatan Confederacy. In some instances, The Powhatan may refer to one of the leaders of the people. This is most commonly the case in historical records from English colonial accounts. The Powhatans have also been known as Virginia Algonquians, as the Powhatan language is an eastern-Algonquian language, also known as Virginia Algonquian. It is estimated that there were about 14,000–21,000 Powhatan people in eastern Virginia, when English colonists established Jamestown in 1607.
Opechancanough was paramount chief of the Powhatan Confederacy in present-day Virginia from 1618 until his death. He had been a leader in the confederacy formed by his older brother Powhatan, from whom he inherited the paramountcy.
Sir Samuel Argall was an English adventurer and naval officer.
Thomas Rolfe was the only child of Matoaka (Pocahontas) and her English husband, John Rolfe. His maternal grandfather was Chief Wahunsenacawh, the leader of the Powhatan tribe in Virginia.
Colonel Robert Bolling, sometimes called Robert Bolling, Sr., after he gave a son his own name, was a wealthy early American settler planter and merchant.
Powhatan, whose proper name was Wahunsenacawh, was the leader of the Powhatan, an alliance of Algonquian-speaking American Indians living in Tsenacommacah, in the Tidewater region of Virginia at the time when English settlers landed at Jamestown in 1607.
The "Citie of Henricus"—also known as Henricopolis, Henrico Town or Henrico—was a settlement in Virginia founded by Sir Thomas Dale in 1611 as an alternative to the swampy and dangerous area around the original English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. It was named for Henry, Prince of Wales (1594–1612), the eldest son of King James I.
The Indian massacre of 1622, popularly known as the Jamestown massacre, took place in the English Colony of Virginia, in what is now the United States, on 22 March 1622. John Smith, though he had not been in Virginia since 1609 and was not an eyewitness, related in his History of Virginia that warriors of the Powhatan "came unarmed into our houses with deer, turkeys, fish, fruits, and other provisions to sell us". The Powhatan then grabbed any tools or weapons available and killed all the English settlers they found, including men, women, children of all ages. Chief Opechancanough led the Powhatan Confederacy in a coordinated series of surprise attacks, and they killed a total of 347 people, a quarter of the population of the Virginia colony.
Varina Farms, also known as Varina Plantation or Varina Farms Plantation or Varina on the James, is a plantation established in the 17th century on the James River about 10 miles (16 km) south of Richmond, Virginia. An 820-acre (330 ha) property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 as "Varina Plantation". At that time it included two contributing buildings and one other contributing site.
The Anglo–Powhatan Wars were three wars fought between settlers of the Virginia Colony and Algonquin Indians of the Powhatan Confederacy in the early seventeenth century. The first war started in 1609 and ended in a peace settlement in 1614. The second war lasted from 1622 to 1626. The third war lasted from 1644 until 1646 and ended when Opechancanough was captured and killed. That war resulted in a defined boundary between the Indians and colonial lands that could only be crossed for official business with a special pass. This situation lasted until 1677 and the Treaty of Middle Plantation which established Indian reservations following Bacon's Rebellion.
The Starving Time at Jamestown in the Colony of Virginia was a period of starvation during the winter of 1609–1610. There were about 500 Jamestown residents at the beginning of the winter. However, there were only 61 people still alive when the spring arrived.
Patawomeck is a Native American tribe based in Stafford County, Virginia, along the Potomac River. Patawomeck is another spelling of Potomac.
Henry Spelman (1595–1623) was an English adventurer, soldier, and author, the son of Erasmus Spelman and nephew to Sir Henry Spelman of Congham (1562–1641). The younger Henry Spelman was born in 1595 and left his home in Norfolk, England at age 14 to sail to Virginia Colony aboard the ship Unity, as a part of the Third Supply to the Jamestown Colony in 1609. He is remembered for being an early interpreter for the people of Jamestown as well as writing the Relation of Virginia, documenting the first permanent English colonial settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia, and particularly the lifestyles of the Native Americans of the Powhatan Confederacy led by Chief Powhatan.
Jamestown, also Jamestowne, was the first settlement of the Virginia Colony, founded in 1607, and served as the capital of Virginia until 1699, when the seat of government was moved to Williamsburg. This article covers the history of the fort and town at Jamestown proper, as well as colony-wide trends resulting from and affecting the town during the time period in which it was the colonial capital of Virginia.
Captain John Smith and Pocahontas is a 1953 American historical film directed by Lew Landers. The distributor was United Artists. It stars Anthony Dexter, Jody Lawrance and Alan Hale.
Another unlikely 'FFV' was the wayward Pilgram Isaac Allerton, a London tailor's son who emigrated in the Mayflower to Plymouth Colony and resettled in Virginia, ca. 1655, where he married into Berkeley's ruling elite.
Among the most prominent of these lineages are those of the Bland, Braxton, Byrd, Carter, Chapman, Corbin, Fitzhugh, Harrison, Lee, Lindsey, Ludwell, Nelson, Randolph, Washington, and Wormley families.
The Robinsons were one of the first families of Virginia where they settled about 1670, before becoming one of the first families of Upper Canada.