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George Yeardley

George Yeardley

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Sir George Yeardley was a plantation
Plantation
A plantation is a long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale, often in distant markets rather than for local on-site consumption...

 owner and three time colonial Governor of the British Colony of Virginia. A survivor of the Virginia Company of London's ill-fated Third Supply Mission
Third Supply
The Third Supply was the first truly successful wave of colonization in the first English settlement in the Americas, at Jamestown. It also resulted in the settlement of Bermuda ....

, whose flagship, the Sea Venture, was shipwrecked on Bermuda
Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

 for 10 months in 1609-10, he is best remembered for presiding over the initial session of the first representative legislative body in Virginia in 1619. With representatives from throughout the settled portion of the colony, the group became known as the House of Burgesses
House of Burgesses
The House of Burgesses was the first assembly of elected representatives of English colonists in North America. The House was established by the Virginia Company, who created the body as part of an effort to encourage English craftsmen to settle in North America...

. It has met continuously since, and is known in modern times as the Virginia General Assembly
Virginia General Assembly
The Virginia General Assembly is the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, established on July 30, 1619. The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members,...

.

Early life


Yeardley was baptized on July 28, 1588, in St. Saviour's Parish, Southwark, Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

. He was the son of Ralph Yeardley (1549–1604), a London merchant-tailor, and Rhoda Marston (d. 1603). He chose not to follow his father into trade, but instead became a soldier and joined a company of English foot-soldiers to fight the Spanish in the Netherlands. As captain of a personal bodyguard, he was selected to serve Sir Thomas Gates
Thomas Gates (governor)
Sir Thomas Gates , followed George Percy as governor of Jamestown, the English colony of Virginia . Percy, through inept leadership, was responsible for the lives lost during the period called the Starving Time...

 during his term as Governor of Virginia
Governor of Virginia
The governor of Virginia serves as the chief executive of the Commonwealth of Virginia for a four-year term. The position is currently held by Republican Bob McDonnell, who was inaugurated on January 16, 2010, as the 71st governor of Virginia....

.

Shipwreck


Yardley set sail from England on June 1, 1609, with the newly appointed Gates aboard the Sea Venture
Sea Venture
The Sea Venture was a 17th-century English sailing ship, the wrecking of which in Bermuda is widely thought to have been the inspiration for Shakespeare's The Tempest...

, the flagship
Flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

 of the ill-fated Third Supply expedition to Jamestown. After eight weeks at sea, and seven days from expected landfall, the convoy ran into a tropical storm and the Sea Venture was shipwrecked in the Bermudas. Fortunately, everyone survived the storm. Despite numerous problems, including civil unrest among the former passengers resulting in Gates to declare martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

, two small ships were built within 10 months. The two ships,the 70-80 ton Deliverance and the 30 ton pinnace Patience, arrived at Jamestown on May 23, 1610.

Jamestown


The shipwreck survivors found the colonists of Jamestown in desperate condition. Most of the settlers had died from sickness or starvation, or had been killed by Indians. Sir Thomas Gates agreed with the Jamestown settlers to abandon the colony and return to England. He ordered Captain Yeardley to command his soldiers to guard the town preventing settlers from setting fire to the structures that were evacuated. Lord de la Warr soon arrived bringing supplies to save the struggling colony. Captain Yeardley was co-commander of the early Forts Henry and Charles at Kecoughtan
Kecoughtan, Virginia
Kecoughtan in Virginia was originally named Kikotan , the name of the Algonquian Native Americans living there when the English colonists arrived in the Hampton Roads area in 1607....

. In October 1610, Lord De La Warr ordered Captain Yeardley and Captain Edward Brewster to lead 150 men into the mountains in search of silver and gold mines.

Deputy-Governorship


In 1616 Yeardley was designated Deputy-Governor of Virginia. One of his first accomplishments was to come to an agreement with the Chickahominy Indians that secured food and peace for two years. He served from 1616 to 1617. Yeardley was appointed Deputy-Governor again in 1625.

Marriage and Knighthood and Governorships of Virginia


On 18 October 1618, Yeardley married Temperance Flowerdew
Temperance Flowerdew
Temperance Flowerdew was an early settler of the Jamestown Colony and a key member of the Flowerdew family, significant participants in the history of Jamestown...

, daughter of Anthony Flowerdew of Hethersett, County Norfolk, and his wife Martha Stanley of Scottow, County Norfolk. "Exactly a month later he was appointed to serve three years as governor of Virginia, and was knighted by James I during an audience at Newmarket on 24 November". Temperance Flowerdew had also sailed for Virginia in the 1609 expedition, aboard the Faulcon, arriving at Jamestown in August 1609. She was one of the few survivors of the Starving Time
Starving Time (Jamestown)
The Starving Time at Jamestown in the Colony of Virginia was a period of forced starvation initiated by the Powhatan Confederacy to remove the English from Virginia. The campaign killed all but 60 of the 500 colonists during the winter of 1609–1610....

.

In 1619, he patented 1000 acres (4 km²) of land on Mulberry Island
Mulberry Island
Mulberry Island is located along the James River in the city of Newport News, Virginia, in southeastern Virginia at the confluence of the Warwick River on the Virginia Peninsula.- History:...

. He owned another private plantation upriver on the south side of the James River
James River (Virginia)
The James River is a river in the U.S. state of Virginia. It is long, extending to if one includes the Jackson River, the longer of its two source tributaries. The James River drains a catchment comprising . The watershed includes about 4% open water and an area with a population of 2.5 million...

 opposite Tanks Weyanoke, named Flowerdew Hundred. It is often assumed that Yeardley named this plantation "Flowerdew Hundred" after his wife, as a kind of romantic tribute. However, the land appears to have been in use by Stanley Flowerdew, Yeardley's brother-in-law, before it was patented by Yeardley, so the plantation may have been associated with the Flowerdew name before Yeardley's patent. Note that Yeardley named his Mulberry Island plantation "Stanley Hundred", undoubtedly after his Stanley in-laws. In other words, both of Yeardley's plantations were named in honor of his wealthy in-laws.

Another Flowerdew relation, John Pory
John Pory
John Pory was an English government administrator, traveller, and author of the Jacobean and Caroline eras; he is widely considered to have been the first news correspondent in English-language journalism.-Life and work:...

, served as Secretary to the colony from 1618-1622. And when Flowerdew Hundred sent representatives to the first General Assembly in Jamestown in 1619, one was Ensign Edmund Rossingham, a son of Temperance Flowerdew's elder sister Mary Flowerdew and her husband Dionysis Rossingham. Clearly, the Yeardley-Flowerdew alliance was as much to do with power politics and social status as with romance.

With a population of about thirty, Flowerdew plantation was economically successful with thousands of pounds of tobacco produced along with corn, fish and livestock. In 1621 Yeardley paid 120 pounds (possibly a hogshead of tobacco) to build the first windmill
Windmill
A windmill is a machine which converts the energy of wind into rotational energy by means of vanes called sails or blades. Originally windmills were developed for milling grain for food production. In the course of history the windmill was adapted to many other industrial uses. An important...

 in British America. The windmill was an English post design and was transferred by deed in the property’s 1624 sale to Abraham Piersey, a Cape Merchant of the London Company
London Company
The London Company was an English joint stock company established by royal charter by James I of England on April 10, 1606 with the purpose of establishing colonial settlements in North America.The territory granted to the London Company included the coast of North America from the 34th parallel ...

.

The plantation survived the 1622 onslaught of Powhatan Indians, losing only six people. It remained an active and fortified private plantation, unlike many others in the area such as the Citie of Henricus
Henricus
The "Citie of Henricus" — also known as Henricopolis or Henrico Town or Henrico — was a settlement founded by Sir Thomas Dale in 1611 as an alternative to the swampy and dangerous area around the original English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia...

.

Yeardley led the first representative Virginia General Assembly
Virginia General Assembly
The Virginia General Assembly is the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, established on July 30, 1619. The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members,...

, the legislative House of Burgesses
House of Burgesses
The House of Burgesses was the first assembly of elected representatives of English colonists in North America. The House was established by the Virginia Company, who created the body as part of an effort to encourage English craftsmen to settle in North America...

, to meet on American soil. It convened at the church in Jamestown on July 30, 1619. One of the first acts of this representative body was to set the price of tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

. Yeardley was appointed Deputy-Governor again in 1625. He served a second time as Governor from March 4, 1626/27 until his death on November 13, 1627. He is buried in the church
Jamestown Church
Jamestown Church, partially built in 1639 in Jamestown, Virginia, is one of the oldest surviving buildings built by Europeans in the original thirteen colonies that became the United States...

 at Jamestown, Virginia.

Family


Yeardley married Temperance Flowerdew, daughter of Anthony Flowerdew and Martha Stanley. The couple had three children:
  • Elizabeth Yeardley (1615–1660).
  • Argoll Yeardley (1617–1655).
  • Francis Yeardley (1620–1655), "Upon reaching manhood he became quite prominent in the affairs of Virginia, being for some time a colonel of militia and in 1653 a member of the House of Burgesses for Lower Norfolk."

After Yeardley's death Temperance Flowerdew
Temperance Flowerdew
Temperance Flowerdew was an early settler of the Jamestown Colony and a key member of the Flowerdew family, significant participants in the history of Jamestown...

 married Governor Francis West
Francis West
Francis West was a Deputy Governor of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia.West was the second son of Thomas West, 2nd Baron De La Warr of Wherwell Abbey in Hampshire and his wife, Anne Knollys....

.

Sources

  • Deetz, James,Flowerdew Hundred: the Archaeology of a Virginia Plantation 1619-186. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993).
  • Hatch, Charles E., The First Seventeen Years: Virginia, 1607-1624 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1957).
  • Dorman, J.F., ed., Adventures of Purse and Person, Virginia 1607-1624/5 (Alexandria: Order of First Families of Virginia, 1987).
  • Hume, Ivor Noël, The Virginia Adventure. New York, Alfred A. Knopf. 1994).
  • Kolb, Avery, "The Tempest",
  • American Heritage: Four Hundred Years of American Seafaring,April/May 1983.
  • "Wreck and Redemption", The Web of Time: Pages from the American Past, Issue Two, Fall 1998.

External links

  • http://www.virginia.org/johnsmithtrail/
  • http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/
  • http://www.jamestowne.org/