Friday, February 5, 2016

The College Lands

Some of the old deeds in York County, Virginia refer to the College lands.  The College began in 1619 with a specific interest towards Christianing the Indians and educating the infidels children. Governer Yeardley's instructions of 1618 had an order to locate a suitable place for a university in the Henrico area.  Contributions were made towards the planting of a college and 10,000 acres were set aside as an endowment. When the bishop's collection for the college reached £1,500, a decision was made. Rather than start construction with too little, it was resolved to send fifty tenants-at-halves to work on the land. Half of their income would go to the college project and half to themselves. Profits, it was expected, would augment the building and maintenance fund and help to support tutors and students. In the meanwhile, friendly relations with the Indians were important to make possible the willing education of their children. The tenants reached Virginia in November, 1619, under the command of William Weldon. Being poorly supplied, however, and inexperienced, the Governor dispersed 30 of them among the old planters and sent Weldon and the remainder to be with Capt. Samuel Mathews at Arrahatock which was actually within the College lands. This was a poor beginning and meant that little would happen within a year. In England, the early beginnings were seen not to have been too successful and the Company committee set up for the purpose explored various possibilities. In the spring of 1620, George Thorpe, a gentleman of the King's privy chamber and a member of the Company Council, was made deputy for the Company to prosecute the project. Already he had gone to Virginia in the interest of Berkeley Hundred. Previously, it appears, an additional fifty tenants had been dispatched to the Colony.
The Indian massacre of 1620/1621 took George Thorpe and 17 of the "Colledge People" located about 2 miles above "Henrico-Citie." The college project did not survive this blow even though the Company urged it and the 60 surviving tenants were returned to the land in the spring of 1623 with the hope of building houses and planting orchards and gardens.  During the year of 1624, there were 29 persons living on the college lands, and, according to the census of 1625, this had dropped to 22 who were living in 8 houses. They were then deficient in food, excepting fish, and in livestock and were not too well armed, having but 16 armors, 6 swords, and 18 fixed pieces. The excursion into ironmaking had failed after the expenditure of "the greatest parte of the stock belonginge to the Colledge." With the dissolution of the Company the spark for the project seemed gone. One student of this subject, Robert Hunt Land, has concluded: "Possibly a greater blow to Henrico College than the massacre was the revocation of the charter of the Virginia Company of London."
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