Virginia History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

Prior to England’s affirmative attempts to colonize North America, the land that extended from South Carolina all the way north to the Canadian Maritimes was named “Virginia”, after England’s “Virgin Queen”, Queen Elizabeth I.

In the mid-16th century, the Spanish were the first outsiders to actually explore Virginia; all their attempts to settle the area eventually failed due to Indian reprisals and inadequate supplies.

Sir Walter Raleigh, legendary English explorer, and friends sponsored (paid for) two attempts to establish a colony on Roanoke Island – now part of North Carolina. The first colony quickly failed and the second, now called the “Lost Colony”completely, disappeared without a trace after critical supplies from England arrived three years late. Their fate is still unknown.

In 1603 King James I assumed the throne of England , and in order to raise funds, granted a charter (for financial reasons) to the Virginia Company in 1606, a group of London based entrepreneurs. That company planned to successfully colonize this New World ; find a water route to the East and discover untold riches in gold. Well, in the end, there didn’t seem to be any gold in Virginia.

Regardless, in December 1606 Рwith little preparation Рa group of colonists (in three courts) left England bound for this New World. First coming ashore at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay; after some initial exploration of the scenery they would later settle 40 miles inland on an island which they named Jamestown in May 1607. The Jamestown settlement soon struggled to survive. At first, short on food and unable to grow their own crops, the colonists, with the help of Captain John Smith, were able to secure small amounts of food and an uncomfortable peace with the Native Americans.

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For the suffering and tragedy of man for the next few years was the order of the day; supply ships did not arrive in time, disease and starvation killed many, and most of the remaining colonists were ready to leave Jamestown when Smith, seriously wounded by gunpowder burn, returned to England for medical treatment in October 1609.

Then in 1610 Sir Thomas West (Baron De Lar Warr) came from England to save the colony. He brought 150 men, and much-needed food, tools, and extra supplies. On his ship was a businessman named John Rolph; he would later kidnap and marry Pocahontas, the daughter of a powerful Indian chief.

By that time, efforts to introduce lucrative industries to the Virginia colony had all failed.(John Rolph) was introducing his new blend of tobacco. The harvest did well and the first shipments of this cash crop were exported to England in 1612; the colony survived and economic prosperity was now a possibility.

Plantation settlements and farms soon spread beyond Jamestown; in 1619 90 women arrived from England, all destined to help populate those settlements as wives for the male colonists. That same year several African servants arrived; they were put to work in the tobacco fields, thus marking the beginning of America’s years of slavery.

Frustrating with this expansion, the Powhatan Indians wanted their ancestral lands back. On “Good Friday”, March 22, 1622, they suddenly started coordinated (surprise)attacks on all settlements; nearly 400 colonists (men, women and children) were killed in an event now remembered as the Indian Massacre of 1622.

Virginia timeline

1600s

  • (1607) Jamestown, first permanent English settlement established; attacked Indians killed 1, wounded 11; John Smith captured by the Indians
  • (1608) More settlers arrived; John Smith released; the fire destroyed all the houses
  • (1611) John Rolph introduces his tobacco seeds
  • (1612) First tobacco harvest exported
  • (1613) Pocahontas captured, brought to Jamestown
  • (1614) John Rolph and Pocahontas married
  • (1619) 90 women arrived in the ship “brides”; black indentured servants arrived on a Dutch ship; first meeting held by the Virginia General Assembly
  • (1622) Indian massacre caused the death of 347 colonists including women and children
  • (1624) King James made Virginia a royal colony
  • (1676) Colonists rebelled (Bacon’s Rebellion); the capitol building and the Jamestown settlement burned; Bacon died, supporters hung
  • (1699) Capitol building burned again; City of Williamsburg

established, defined as capital

1700s

  • (1747) Capital Williamsburg destroyed by fire
  • (1754) French and Indian War started; General George Washington led the militia into battle
  • (1763) French and Indian War ended
  • (1765) Stamp Act passed by King George III, required by colonists to buy stamps for newspapers, calendars, marriage licenses; Patrick Henry opposed the law
  • (1771) Richmond is flooded
  • (1773) Correspondence Committees founded
  • (1774) First meeting of the Continental Congress held; Virginians George Washington and Patrick Henry take part
  • (1775) Patrick Henry delivered his inspirational speech ending with “Give me freedom or give me death.”
  • (1776) Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence; Virginia adopted the first constitution; declared its independence
  • (1779) Capital moved from Williamsburg to Richmond
  • (1781) At Yorktown, British forces under General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to a combined French and American force serving under General George Washington.
  • (1786) Statute of Religious Liberty passed; gave Virginians the right to choose their religion, the church
  • (1788) Virginia became the 10th American state
  • (1789) George Washington chose the American President

1800s

  • (1801) Thomas Jefferson elected the third American President
  • (1804) Meriwether Lewis and William Clark began exploration of the western frontier; first Americans to cross the continent all the way into the Pacific Ocean
  • (1809) James Madison elected fourth US president; known as the “Father of the Constitution”
  • (1809) James Monroe elected the fifth American President
  • (1809) Nat Turner led a slave rebellion against plantation owners; he was captured and hanged
  • (1859) John Brown, abolitionist, led a group on a raid to steal weapons to fight slavery
  • (1861) Virginia seceded from Union, joined Confederacy; the civil war has begun; first Confederate officer killed in Fairfax Court; first battle of Manassas, battle of Shar’s Bluff, battle of Dranesville
  • (1862) Second Battle of Manassas; chantilly cream battle
  • (1863) West Virginia formed from the 50 western counties of Virginia; battle of Bristoe Station
  • (1865) The Civil War is over; Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox; Lee and the troops were called to leave Richmond; burning bridges along the way
  • (1867) Valuable coal deposits discovered
  • (1870) Virginia re-entered the Union; a second floor room in the Capitol building collapsed above the Chamber of the Chamber of Deputies, 62 killed, 251 injured; James River flooded, many lives lost, 20 homes swept away, damages estimated at $1 million

1900s

  • (1901) Jim Crow laws passed, segregation created
  • (1902) Maggie Lena Walker opened St. Luke’s Pence Savings Bank of African Americans
  • (1913) Woodrow Wilson chose the American President; announced second Sunday on Mother’s Day in May
  • (1920) 19th Amendment passed, women got the right to vote
  • (1941 – 1943) Pentagon built in Arlington
  • (1941 – 1948) African American parents, students fought for transportation, equal facilities, equal curricula
  • (1950) Desegregation began, first African American student attended Law School at the University of Virginia
  • (1954) Segregation declared unconstitutional
  • (1959) To refuse integration, Prince Edward County closed all schools
  • (1964) Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel opened
  • (1981) First American test-tube baby born in Norfolk
  • (1989) Douglas Wilder became the state’s first African-American governor
  • (1993) 18 tornadoes hit southeastern Virginia in four hours, killed four people, injured 259, $52.5 million in damages occurred

2000s

  • (2003) Over 1 million customers lost power due to Hurricane Isabel
  • (2007) 33 students at Virginia Tech and University destroyed by a fellow student

400th Anniversary of National Founding held at Jamestown

  • (2007) 400th Anniversary of National Founding held at Jamestown
  • (2009) Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy buried in Arlington near brothers, John and Robert

Blizzard killed three stranded hundreds of motorists

  • (2009) Blizzard killed three stranded hundreds of motorists
  • (2010) 11 pirates indicted in Norfolk for attacks on US shipping off Somalia
  • (2010) Two members of a suspected spy ring living in Virginia admitted to being Russian citizens
  • (2011) Two killed in Virginia Tech and University shooting
  • (2011) Virginia earthquake damaged buildings in Washington DC

Virginia History