Flowerdew Hundred – The Estate

Flowerdew Hundred is located on Virginia’s James River. It is a large piece of land that was, in 1619, patented to Sir George Yeardley, the Captain General and Governor of Virginia. So let’s learn more about Flowerdew Hundred – The Estate.

Yeardley was married to a woman named Temperance Flowerdew and “The hundred”, a successful tobacco plantation, counted some 30 people. The plantation additionally produced livestock, corn, and fish, and to build the first windmill in the area of colonial Virginia, Sir George Yeardley paid around 120 pounds to have it built at the Flowerdew site.

Flowerdew Hundred, one of the first New World English settlements, remains a unique property in Virginia’s Prince George County along the James River. When the plantation was granted to Governor George Yeardley in 1618, he named it for his beloved wife, Temperance Flowerdew.

Flowerdew then survived the 1622 Indian Massacre and suffered just six deaths, and it remained active as a private, fortified plantation. A second settlement was formed in 1683 further down the James River named Flowerdew Towne. However, the new settlement was, unlike Flowerdew Hundred, not very successful in Virginia’s plantation economy.

In 1781, General Benedict Arnold shelled a portion of the Flowerdew land that was then sold to Joshua Poythress. When the Revolutionary War was over, John Vaughn Willcox reformed the plantation and when he had married the last of the Poythress heirs, he purchased as well much of the surrounding territory that had earlier been sold off from the initial land grant.

The Willcox family built a new house in 1804 on a high ridge spot that overlooked the fertile lands along the James River. When in 1864, the Civil War and General Ulysses Grant had also reached Flowerdew, Grant was ordering his troops to cross the River in hopes to cut off General Robert E. Lee and to get hold of Petersburg as well.

The original land on which Flowerdew Hundred was established includes more than sixty archeologically interesting sites, ranging from 1900s homesteads to Native American encampments dating back to the Archaic Period.

Archeological research has indicated that the Flowerdew Hundred site was initially inhabited by groups of Native Americans more than 10,000 years ago. In the period 1975 to 2000, archeological excavations were allowed on the property by David and Mary Harrison and recognized American historical archeologist James Deetz published a synopsis of Harrison’s excavation research findings in 1993 titled Flowerdew Hundred: The Archaeology of a Virginia Plantation (1619-1864).

Flowerdew Hundred Archeology

Mary and David Harrison gained possession of Flowerdew Hundred in 1967. They recognized the plantation’s historical significance and welcomed archaeological research and investigation on their property. Since 1971, countless excavations took place at more than 70 locations at the plantation that have yielded crucial clues about successive inhabitants in this part of the nations and the way they lived.

The efforts of Mary and David Harrison attracted the most prominent archaeologists to the earlier plantation. In 1971, the College of William & Mary’s Professor of Anthropology Norman Barka started out to investigate along Flowerdew Hundred’s northwestern riverfront and under his guidance, significant early 17th-century and Virginia Indian were excavated. This resulted in an increased interest in the early days of 17th-century Virginia and also made that Flowerdew Hundred became the centerpiece of American historical archaeology. Throughout the 1970s, archaeologists continued their excavation efforts which revealed a number of 18th-century sites at Flowerdew Hundred.

In the period 1981-1995, Professor of Archaeology James Deetz conducted more excavations at Flowerdew Hundred. He detailed his findings in his above-mentioned book. Excavations performed by archeologists of the Flowerdew Hundred Foundation (founded in 1980) and research carried out at the Archaeology Laboratory of the Foundation have also contributed immensely to the historical archaeology regarding the plantation.

Investigations conducted at Flowerdew Hundred have yielded quite a few important historic revelations. However, with over 400,000 interesting artifacts still remaining to be sifted through, the Flowerdew Hundred Collection has so many exciting stories that are waiting to get discovered.

In 2008, the Flowerdew Hundred Foundation (so actually, the Harrison Family) donated the entire Flowerdew Hundred Collection of artifacts (hundreds of thousands of items) to the Library of the University of Virginia Library. The family’s generosity makes sure that the historically significant collection remains to be accessible for further study by researchers.

Artifacts recovered in David Harrison’s archaeological investigations can be seen at the Library of the University of Virginia. The University’s Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library is located in Charlottesville at 160 McCormick Road.

The Virginia Landmarks Register enlisted Flowerdew Hundred in 1975, on May 20, followed by the American National Register of Historic Places on August 1 of that same year. Flowerdew Hundred is not open to the public anymore, but some four miles south of the historic plantation, you can find an interesting historical marker. See also this article about fun and history in Washington D.C.