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Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Governor's Council

Colonial Virginia had no House of Lords but the Governor's Council, which was handpicked by the Goernor and confirmed by the King, served a similar role. Members were appointed from the wealthies and most highly respected families, and posts were often for a lifetime, and inherited after death by a son of the same family. The Governor's Council also served as the high court in the colony, trying all serious offences. The council met at least once a year, and had judicial sessions quarterly. The members often stayed at the capital for several weeks or longer to advise the governor on imminent matters. By the 1640's council members were exempted from taxation to pay for their service to the colony. They assisted with land grants, appointing public positions such as tobacco inspectors, militia officers, sheriffs. They also appointed the justices of the peace in each county. In two cases they successfully appealed to the Queen to replace the the Governor and lt. governor. Thus between their business dealings and their governmental dealings, these were dominant and powerful families in Colonial Virginia. However, after 1750 the House of Burgesses began to fill a more dominant place in governmental affairs.

Members of the Governor's Council from Henrico and nearby Charles City county are listed below.

1623- Wm. Farrar (d. 1637)
1637- Francis Epes (of Charles City County) 1637 (d bef. 1655)
1642- Thomas Stegg (died in a shipwreck in 1652)
1657- Abraham Wood (Charles City)
1664- Thomas Stegg II
1665- Theodore Bland (Charles City-"Westover" (d 1671)
1675- Nathaniel Bacon II (of Bacon's Rebellion-Henrico- "The Curles") (d 1676)
1681- William Byrd I ("Belvidere" in Henrico and "Westover" in Charles City) (d 1704)
1688- Edward Hill ("Shirley" Charles City) (d 1700)
1708- William Byrd II ("Westover" Charles City) (d 1744)
1724- John Carter ("Shirley" Charles City) (d 1742)
1728- Wm. Randolph ("Turkey Island" Henrico) (d 1742)
1754- Wm. Byrd III ("Westover" Charles City) (d 1777)

William Farrar- came to Virginia at age 35 with Lord De La Ware. In the 1622 massacre, ten people were killed at his estate on the Appomattox River, but William escaped with other survivors and lived at the home of his neighbors, the Jordan's, on "Beggars Bush" and "Jorden's Journey" plantation on the James River. When Samuel Jordan died in 1623, his widow, Cicely, married William. Their neighbors were Capt. John Woodlief, John Rolfe, and John Martin. They lived at Jordan's Journey for several years before William patented land at the former city of Henricus, which became known as "Farrar's Island."

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