Gloucester is a county of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the USA. Formed in 1651 in the Virginia Colony, it was named for Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, third son of King Charles I of Great Britain. Located in the Middle Peninsula region, it borders the York River and the lower Chesapeake Bay. It is about 75 miles east of Virginia's capital, Richmond. As of the 2000 census, the population was 34,780.
Gloucester is steeped in history of the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. It was the site of Werowocomoco, a capital of the Native American group known as the Powhatan Confederacy. It was home to members of early First Families of Virginia and important colonial leaders leading up to the American Revolutionary War. Thomas Jefferson is said to have composed much of his early work for Virginia and colonial independence at Rosewell Plantation overlooking the York River, then the home of his close friend and fellow student in Williamsburg at the College of William and Mary, John Page. From one of the First Families of Virginia, John Page himself was a famous patriot serving as both Governor of Virginia and in the U.S. Congress; Gloucester County Public Schools named Page Middle School in his honor. As the war came to a conclusion at Yorktown directly across from Gloucester Point, the county almost served as the escape route for the British land forces led by General Cornwallis. A French effort kept British naval forces from assisting him.
Long the domain of Virginia watermen and its fishing industries, Gloucester County is also rich in farmland. It is home to two Starbucks, a Walmart as well as several smaller companies and a regional, family-owned chain of supermarkets which contribute to its small town, friendly, southern atmosphere, such as the stores around the main street area at the county seat, Gloucester Courthouse.
Despite the retention of rural and small-town aspects, Gloucester County and adjacent Mathews County are also considered a portion of the greater Hampton Roads region of southeastern Virginia, linked by the George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge a toll facility across the York River carrying U.S. Route 17 to the Virginia Peninsula area. The zip code is 23061, and the telephone area code 804. Gloucester County is also referred to as the daffodil capitol of the world, and features an annual daffodil parade.
When English settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607, they soon came into conflict with the natives (who they called "Indians") as well. In late 1607, when captured along the Chickahominy River, John Smith was brought to Powhatan at his eastern capitol in Gloucester County, Werowocomoco. According to legend, his daughter, the Princess Pocahontas saved the gallant John Smith from death at the hands of the Indians, and thus, entered the pages of Virginia's history. Some historians question the accuracy of Smith's account of that ceremony, but the existence of Werowocomoco as a capital of Chief Powhatan was confirmed by a later visit when Smith was accompanied by other Englishmen.
A location some distance from Wicomico on Purtan Bay was first identified in 1977 as the possible location by Daniel Mouer, an archaeologist at Virginia Commonwealth University. An associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Dr. Mouer collected artifacts from the surface of plowed fields and along the beach. He found fragments of Indian ceramic from the Late Woodland/Contact Period and determined that this area was the "possible site of Werowocomoco.
After years of collecting artifacts at ground level, a later landowner authorized additional archaeological exploration. Between March 2002 and April 2003 archaeologists conducted an archaeological survey of a portion of the property. Initial testing included digging 603 test holes, 12 to 16 inches deep and 50 feet apart, where thousands of artifacts, including a blue bead that may have been made in Europe for trading, were found. There, along with historical descriptions, suggest the farm was the site of Werowocomoco. We believe we have sufficient evidence to confirm that the property is indeed the village of Werowocomoco," said Randolph Turner, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources' Portsmouth Regional Office in 2003.
Two Gloucester-based archaeologists, Thane Harpole and David Brown, were instrumental in the work at the site since 2002 and are involved in the excavations there. Starting that year, the Werowocomoco Research Group began excavations at the Werowocomoco site. The Research Group is a collaborative effort of the College of William and Mary, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and Virginia tribes descended from the Powhatans. The excavations have identified a dispersed village community occupied from A.D. 1200 through the early seventeenth century. Artifacts recovered during the excavations include Native pottery, stone tools, as well as floral and faunal remains from a large residential community. The Research Group has also recovered large numbers of English trade goods produced from glass, copper, and other metals originating from Jamestown. The colonists' accounts of interaction at Werowocomoco emphasize Powhatan's efforts to obtain large numbers of English objects, particularly copper, during the early days of the Jamestown colony.
It is notable that, unlike some earlier projects, at this site, the archaeologists and other researchers have carefully incorporated ongoing consultation with members of the local Native American tribes, the Mattaponi and Pamunkey, who are prominent among the decedents of the Powhatan Confederacy, as such sites which include burial artifacts are sacred to these tribes.
Even through the controversy over years of the purported location of Werowocomoco, Gloucester County has been able to embrace the fact that Werowocomoco and a lot of other significant Powhatan heritage are portions of the county's history. It has been noted that both the newly identified site on Purtan Bay and the site of Powhatan's Chimney at Wicomico, also long-thought to have been the site of Werowocomoco, are each located within an area that the Native Americans may have considered as Werowocomoco. It has been noted in the minutes of the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors that the village of the chief in the Algonquian language was not a place name, but more correctly translated, a reference to the lands where he lived, and the lifestyle included frequent relocations of various quarters within a general area.
Early land patents in the area 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.
Kingston parish became Mathews County in 1791 and the remaining three parishes stayed Gloucester, as the county was split on what is now the Eastern county line.
In the 1600s and 1700s, 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 many times from colonial days through the American 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 now a B&B; the site and ruins of Rosewell, where Thomas Jefferson spent many nights with his friend John Page; and both presidents Washington and Jefferson worshiped (often spotted together 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, born in the Clay Bank area of Gloucester, conqueror of yellow fever during the building of the Panama Canal; Lawyer and civil rights activist T. C. Walker, though born in slavery, broke those chains and became one of Gloucester's first and most respected, successful African-American businessman; and Robert R. Moton, who successfully fought and lobbied for a Black man to be appointed as an assistant to the Secretary of War.
The name "Guinea" is of uncertain origin; a commonly held but false explanation is that this area of Gloucester County was named "Guinea" in an effort to deride the Tories (Loyalists) who quartered Hessian mercenaries in service of the British Crown during the Revolutionary War soldiers who were paid one guinea per day. It is believed the Hessians were attached to General Charles Lord Cornwallis' (of Yorktown fame) army and either occupied lower Gloucester during the closing days of the Revolutionary War or deserted their service fighting for the British. What is known is Cornwallis sent British troops and cavalry (under the command of Colonel Banastre Tarleton) to occupy Gloucester in October 1781, and Hessians may have been a part of that contingency and were sent to secure lower Gloucester due to its strategic importance at the mouth of the York River. However, the area in the upper part of the neck was called "Little Guinea" prior to the Yorktown campaign. It IS quite possible that the marshy, somewhat isolated peninsula now known as Guinea was populated by British deserters, as after the surrender of Cornwallis, British prisoners in Gloucester county were allowed to wander about without confinement or guards, a situation perplexing to General Washington.
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 1930s and 40s. They also hold an annual Daffodil Festival to commemorate this stapled flower.
Abingdon, Achilles, Bethel, Botetourt, Petsworth, and T.C. Walker.Unlike the middle and high schools, these schools give a group of around twenty students to a teacher for a whole school year.
The county's main street has had a long and vibrant past. As of present Gloucester county has three courthouses, with one now considered historical, along mainstreet. Gloucester's mainstreet is well preserved, even having a barber shop, but the county is conducting a major overhaul of the sidewalk system, which takes away from the old world feel of the street. Every year Gloucester has a daffodil parade along main street, where vendors travel to rack up on the local's love of their past.
There were 13,127 households out of which 35.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.40% were married couples living together, 9.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.70% were non-families. 20.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.02.
In the county, the population was spread out with 26.20% under the age of 18, 6.80% from 18 to 24, 30.40% from 25 to 44, 24.80% from 45 to 64, and 11.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 96.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.90 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $45,421, and the median income for a family was $48,760. Males had a median income of $35,838 versus $24,325 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,990. About 6.80% of families and 8.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.70% of those under age 18 and 8.50% of those age 65 or over.