Early History and Establishment of Bermuda Hundred
For at least 10,000 years, Virginia Indians had occupied the site at or near the confluence of what under the English became the James and Appomattox rivers. The Appamattuck Indians maintained their principal town at the site, which was located within the earliest borders of Tsenacomoco, a political alliance ruled and greatly expanded by Powhatan. Approximately 380 people lived there in 1607, when the English met Indian defenders at the site while exploring the newly named James River. The name of the Appamattuck town at what became Bermuda Hundred is unknown.
Dale selected the site "to commaund the head of the River, and the many fruitefull Islands in the same." His intent was to take over the various seats of paramount chief Powhatan and thus take possession of Powhatan's "Countrie." Dale also wanted the "many miles of Champion [meadow], and woodland," in the several hundreds created there—the Upper and Nether (Bermuda) Hundreds, along with "Rochdale hundred, Wests Sherly hundred, and Digges his hundred." Dale believed that the various sites would provide "many excellent Seates for many a thowsand Householder." Colonist Ralph Hamor noted that Bermuda Hundred had "the most convenient quantity of Corne ground, and with a Pale cut over from the River about two miles long."
Bermuda Hundred was founded late in December 1613 and located approximately five miles by land and fourteen miles by water from Henrico (Henricus). By this time, Dale had enclosed the Bermuda peninsula in fences (palisades) and had positioned several dozen Englishmen on the eight square miles of land. A year later, as recorded by Hamor, there were some "very faire houses, already builded, besides divers other particular mens houses, not so few as fifty, according to the conditions of the pattent granted them."
Status of Bermuda Hundred in 1616
The deputy governor, Sir George Yeardley, lived there (presumably just during his term of office from April 1616 to May 15, 1617), along with his lieutenant governor, Sir Thomas Gates. The residents' religious needs were met by the Reverend Alexander Whitaker, the minister of Henricus Church who built a frame house known as Rock Hall on one hundred acres of church land. Whitaker may have baptized Pocahontas and perhaps even performed her wedding to John Rolfe, his friend. (Other accounts suggest the ceremony was performed by Richard Bucke.)
A Dutch West Indies Company mapmaker, Johannes Vingboons, using an unknown source, created a navigation chart of the James River as it appeared at about 1617. Among the sites listed on his map at the far western end was Bermuda Hundred. In November 1617, the residents wrote to the governor, Samuel Argall, complaining that West and Shirley Hundred was their property and that they would not allow a Captain Madison to clear the land there. The governor replied that because he lived at Bermuda Hundred, too, he would not require the residents to submit to Captain Madison, but asked for permission to allow the colony's servants there to remain another year. The people of Bermuda Hundred were the only ones in the colony who received the privilege of ending service to the Virginia Company of London after they had lived there for three years.
By 1619 Bermuda Hundred's palisades had been allowed to fall into a state of near ruin, and the population continued to grow. Residents of Captain Christopher Lawne's plantation in what is now Isle of Wight County suffered through a sickly summer in 1619, and by November many of the survivors had moved to Bermuda Hundred. In March 1620, the population there had thus grown to 184, consisting of 123 men, 30 women, and 31 children and teenagers.
Virginia Indian Attack of 1622
Bermuda Hundred and the General Assembly
In the 1628 list of burgesses, no names appear for the Neck of Land, but at the 1629 session, two Necks of Land make an appearance: one "near the College" (that is, near the area designated by royal charter for the University of Henrico), the other at James City. A resident of the College Land, Thomas Osborne, represented Neck of Land near the College through the session of 1633. Thereafter, few or no names are given for the sessions until 1640, when the area including Bermuda Hundred had become part of Henrico County.
Bermuda Hundred's population began to grow in the 1630s, when new settlers arrived there. The earliest extant land patent for Bermuda Hundred is dated August 30, 1650, when Nicholas Perkins received 170 acres there on Coles Swamp. Earlier grants at the Neck of Land, however, date from 1624 and 1637. In May 1625 there were 2,900 acres of land there held in ten grants, as well as land held in common and that owned by the Bermuda Corporation.
Port and Ferry Town
1611 - Sir Thomas Dale recommends establishing a fortified site on the James River near Henricus.
September 1611 - Sir Thomas Dale marches against Indians farther up the James River from Jamestown and establishes a settlement on a bluff that he calls the City of Henrico, or Henricus, in honor of his patron Prince Henry.
December 1611 - Sir Thomas Dale and his forces attack the Appamattuck towns near the City of Henrico on the James River and later found on the Indians' land the settlement known as Bermuda Hundred.
July 1612 - By this date, John Rolfe is growing the Spanish tobacco Nicotiana tabacum, either at a farm at Jamestown or at Bermuda Hundred.
1613 - After enclosing the peninsula at Bermuda Hundred in palisades, Sir Thomas Dale begins construction of a fort there.
1616 - The population of Bermuda Hundred stands at 119 people, 17 of whom are farmers. The rest are laborers for the Virginia Company of London.
ca. 1617 - Johannes Vingboons, a mapmaker for the Dutch West Indies Company, creates a navigation chart of the James River. Among the sites listed on the map is Bermuda Hundred.
1619 - Bermuda Hundred's palisades have fallen into ruin.
March 1620 - The population at Bermuda Hundred increases to 184 when survivors of the summer illness at Captain Christopher Lawne's plantation relocate to the site.
March 22, 1622 - Indians under Opechancanough unleash a series of attacks that start the Second Anglo-Powhatan War. The assault was originally planned for the fall of 1621, to coincide with the redisposition of Powhatan's bones, suggesting that the attack was to be part of the final mortuary celebration for the former chief.
1624 - The population of Bermuda Hundred stands at 41 people—a result of the March 1622 attacks organized by Opechancanough. Bermuda Hundred sends two men to the General Assembly to serve as burgesses.
1640 - The area including Bermuda Hundred becomes part of Henrico County.
1688 - Francis Eppes and William Randolph lay out the town of Bermuda Hundred.
1691 - The General Assembly designates Bermuda Hundred one of Virginia's first ports.
1731 - Bermuda Hundred becomes a tobacco inspection site.
1732 - Bermuda Hundred is chosen as the site of a ferry that runs across the James River to City Point (originally Bermuda City and now known as Hopewell).
1738 - The General Assembly considers moving the capital of Virginia to Bermuda Hundred, but the capital remains in Williamsburg.
1780 - Richmond becomes Virginia's new capital and Bermuda Hundred's role as a port begins a decline.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Salmon, E. J. Bermuda Hundred during the Colonial Period. (2015, October 27). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Bermuda_Hundred_During_the_Colonial_Period.
- MLA Citation:
Salmon, Emily Jones. "Bermuda Hundred during the Colonial Period." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 27 Oct. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: April 30, 2012 | Last modified: October 27, 2015
Contributed by Emily Jones Salmon, retired senior editor in the Education and Outreach Division of the Library of Virginia, co-editor of The Hornbook of Virginia History (3rd–5th editions: 1983, 1994, and 2010), and co-author with John S. Salmon of Franklin County, Virginia, 1786–1986: A Bicentennial History (1993).