History of Gloucester County
The history of Gloucester County began soon after the settlement of Jamestown in 1607. Named for Henry, Duke of Gloucester, third son of Charles I, Gloucester County figured prominently in the history of the colony and the Commonwealth of Virginia. When English settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607, the Indian stronghold of Chief Powhatan was located on the north side of the river in Gloucester. It was here that Powhatan built his home, Werowocomoco. According to legend, his daughter, the Princess Pocahontas saved the gallant Captain John Smith from a tragic death at the hands of the Indians, and thus, entered the pages of Virginia's history.
Early land patents were granted in 1639, but it was not until after 1644 that Gloucester was considered safe for settlement. George Washington's great grandfather received a Gloucester County land patent in 1650. Gloucester County was formed from York County in 1651, and consisted of four parishes: Abingdon, Kingston, Petsworth and Ware. Kingston parish became Mathews County in 1791.
In the 1600's and 1700's, Gloucester was a tobacco producing area, and many old plantation homes and magnificent private estates remain today in perfect condition. From time to time, these establishments are open to public visitation during Historic Garden Week. In addition, there are fine examples of Colonial architecture in the churches of Ware (1690) and Abingdon (1755), and some early buildings remain at the county seat on the Courthouse Green actively serving the public.
In the seventeenth century, the tip of land protruding into the York River, across from Yorktown, was named Tyndall's Point by Robert Tyndall, mapmaker for Captain John Smith. Later named Gloucester Point, fortifications were built here in 1667, and were rebuilt and strengthened may times from colonial days through the Civil War. This site is also known as the "Second Surrender" by General Charles Lord Cornwallis to General George Washington at Yorktown.
Following English settlement, Gloucester became home to many colonial leaders. Several other points of interest include Warner Hall, George Washington's maternal grandmother's home which is still an active residence; Rosewell, where Thomas Jefferson spent many nights with his friend John Page; and both Washington and Jefferson worshiped (often at the same service) at Abingdon Episcopal Church. Other notable Gloucestonians include John Buckner, who in 1680 brought the colony its first printing press; John Clayton, world renowned botanist; Dr. Walter Reed, conqueror of yellow fever; Lawyer T. C. Walker, though born in slavery, broke those chains and became a respected and successful businessman; and Robert R. Moton, who successfully lobbied for a Black man to be appointed as an assistant to the "Secretary of War."
The history of the daffodil in Gloucester County, Virginia is almost as old as the county itself. When Gloucester was formed in 1651 from part of York County the early settlers brought these soft reminders of English springs as they established themselves in the area. The soil and weather conditions were ideal for daffodils. The bulbs were passed from neighbor to neighbor and spread from the orderly beds and burying grounds of the great houses to the fields. Some, such as the hardy Trumpet Major variety, seemed to thrive on neglect. By the beginning of the 20th century daffodils grew wild in the untended fields of Gloucester. It is from this abundance of natural beauty that grew the extensive daffodil industry which earned the county the title "Daffodil Capital of America" in the 1930's and 40's. [Daffodil history provided by the Daffodil Festival Book Committee]