Nathaniel Bacon Petitions the Governor and Council of State

Nathaniel Bacon (bap. 1620–1692)

Nathaniel Bacon, a member of the governor's Council, was often referred to as Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) in order to distinguish him from his namesake cousin, known as Nathaniel Bacon (the rebel) (1647–1676). Little is known about his early life. By 1653 Bacon had moved to Virginia. He settled in Isle of Wight County before moving to York County. In March 1656 Bacon represented York County in the House of Burgesses, and by December of that year he had become a member of the governor's Council, where he served for three years. After another term as a burgess in 1659, he had once again been named to the Council by August 1660. As the senior member of the Council by January 1682, on three separate occasions in the 1680s and early in 1690 he served as president and acting governor of the colony. Bacon had no children, and when he died on March 16, 1692, his niece Abigail Smith Burwell inherited his vast estate. MORE...

 

Nathaniel Bacon was the only son of James Bacon and Martha Bacon. His father, who also had three daughters by this or another marriage, was rector of Burgate in the county of Suffolk, England. Bacon was born probably at his paternal grandfather's Suffolk seat, Friston Hall, and he was christened on August 29, 1620, in the Parish of Saint Mary's, Bury Saint Edmunds, Suffolk. He was distantly related to the philosopher Francis Bacon.

Little is known about Bacon's youth, but he visited France in 1647 before settling in Virginia by the spring of 1653. He lived first in Isle of Wight County, but by 1656 he had moved to York County. Sometime before March 1655 he married the twice-widowed Ann Bassett Smith Jones. She died shortly thereafter, and he married another widow, Elizabeth Kingsmill Tayloe, about 1656 or 1657. Through his marriages and acquisitions of land in his own right he speedily became a prosperous man of consequence in York County, and he began a long career in politics in March 1656 when he represented the county in the House of Burgesses. By December 1656 he had become a member of the governor's Council, on which he served until sometime in 1659, when he was again elected to the House of Burgesses. On an unrecorded date before August 26, 1660, he was again named to the Council, and he remained a member until his death. By January 1682 he was the senior member, but for reasons that are not clear he yielded seniority to Nicholas Spencer, who served as president and acting governor for nine months beginning in May 1683. Bacon served as president and acting governor on three occasions, during the absences from Virginia of Governor Francis Howard, baron Howard of Effingham, between June and September 1684 and July and September 1687, and between Effingham's departure from the colony in March 1689 and the beginning of Lieutenant Governor Francis Nicholson's term on June 3, 1690. Bacon was also auditor of the royal revenue in Virginia from May 1675 until he resigned in favor of William Byrd (1652–1704) effective June 20, 1688. The auditor saw that money due to the Crown was collected and sent to London and in return earned a commission that yielded approximately £250 a year.

Bacon's father had an affinity with the Puritans, but if Bacon shared it it did not hinder his rapid rise in Virginia politics and society, nor did he have difficulty adjusting to the transition from the Commonwealth back to royal government in 1660. In spite of being a kinsman of Nathaniel Bacon (the rebel), he remained fiercely loyal to the government of Governor Sir William Berkeley in 1676 and was reported to have offered his relative "a considerable part of his Estate" on the condition that "hee would lay downe his Armes, and become a good subject to his Majestie, that that colony might not be disturbed or destroyed, nor his owne Family stained with soe foule a Blott." The rebels occupied his plantation on King's Creek and caused damage estimated at £1,000.

Nathaniel Bacon had no children. His principal heir was a niece, Abigail Smith Burwell, who was living in Gloucester County at the time of his death. She and her children inherited Bacon's landholdings consisting of King's Creek plantation of 1,200 acres of land, 1,775 acres in Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties, 300 acres in New Kent County, 3 acres on Jamestown Island, and a lot in Yorktown. His personal estate was valued after his death at almost £1,200, in addition to £575 in cash legacies specified in his will. Nathaniel Bacon died on March 16, 1692, and was buried at his residence on King's Creek in York County.

Time Line

  • August 29, 1620 - Nathaniel Bacon, the son of James and Martha Bacon, is christened in the Parish of Saint Mary’s, Bury Saint Edmunds, Suffolk, England.
  • 1647 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) visits France.
  • Spring 1653 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) settles in Virginia, living first in Isle of Wight County and then, in 1656, moving to York County.
  • Early 1655 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) marries the twice-widowed Ann Bassett Smith Jones. She dies shortly thereafter.
  • December 1656–1659 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) serves on the governor’s Council.
  • 1659 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) is elected to the House of Burgesses from York County.
  • Early 1660 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) is named to the governor’s Council for the second time; he will remain a member until his death.
  • May 1675–June 20, 1688 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) serves as auditor of the royal revenue in Virginia, ultimately resigning his post to William Byrd.
  • 1676 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) reportedly offers his relative, Nathaniel Bacon (the rebel), a part of his estate in exchange for ceasing his rebellion against Governor Sir William Berkeley.
  • May 1683 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder), the senior member of the governor's Council, yields his seniority to Nicholas Spencer, who begins to serve as president of the council and acting governor.
  • June 1684–September 1684 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) serves as president of the governor's Council and acting governor in the absence of Governor Francis Howard, baron Howard of Effingham.
  • July 1687–September 1687 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) again serves as president of the governor's Council and acting governor in the absence of Governor Francis Howard, baron Howard of Effingham.
  • March 1689–June 3, 1690 - Between Francis Howard, baron Howard of Effingham's departure from Virginia and Lieutenant Governor Francis Nicholson's arrival, Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) serves as acting governor and president of the governor's Council.
  • March 16, 1692 - Nathaniel Bacon (the elder) dies and is buried at his residence on King’s Creek in York County.
Further Reading
Bergstrom, Peter V., "Bacon, Nathaniel (bap. 1620–1692)." In Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 1, edited by John T. Kneebone, J. Jefferson Looney, Brent Tarter, and Sandra Gioia Treadway, 270–271. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Bergstrom, P. V., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Nathaniel Bacon (bap. 1620–1692). (2013, July 8). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Bacon_Nathaniel_bap_1620-1692.

  • MLA Citation:

    Bergstrom, Peter V. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Nathaniel Bacon (bap. 1620–1692)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 8 Jul. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: May 18, 2011 | Last modified: July 8, 2013


Contributed by Peter V. Bergstrom and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography