Virginia Indians and English Colonists
Archaeological evidence has revealed that Native Americans were the first inhabitants of modern-day Gloucester County, having lived in the area thousands of years prior to the 1607 arrival of English colonists at Jamestown. Werowocomoco, the stronghold of Chief Wahunsenacawh (Chief Powhatan) and the home of Pocahontas, was located along the York River. As the population of colonists grew, they forcibly occupied lands of the Powhatan Indians. In 1634, the colony was divided into eight “shires” or counties and in 1651, Gloucester County was established. The following year, the county’s first courthouse was built. Gloucester County was named for Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, third son of King Charles I.
Gloucester’s prosperity during the 1670s-1720s, was founded on tobacco grown by enslaved Africans. As a result, the county became home to many plantations. In 1769, a new town was established by act of the General Assembly of Virginia to be located on land surrounding the courthouse. The town was named “Botetourt Town” after Lord Botetourt, Governor of the Virginia Colony from 1768 to 1770. Later this name was dropped in favor of “Gloucester Courthouse.”
The York River is narrow at the southern tip of Gloucester County. Recognized as an important defensive position, the English colonists called this area Tyndall’s Point for Captain John Smith’s mapmaker Robert Tyndall. Originally fortified in 1667 to protect the colony from Dutch invaders, the site was named Fort James in 1671.The British Army refortified the point in August 1781 and occupied it during the Siege of Yorktown. Gloucester Point was the site of the “Second Surrender” by General Charles Lord Cornwallis to General George Washington. Gloucester County is also home to the October 3, 1781, Battle of the Hook, the largest cavalry engagement of the American Revolution.
During the American Civil War, the Confederate Army saw the value of Gloucester Point and in 1861, built a star-shaped fort overlooking the river. The Union Army controlled the fort from May of 1862 until the end of the war and used it as a base for conducting raids and reconnaissance throughout the county.
Gloucester’s early settlers brought daffodils as reminders of home 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. 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.
While there are currently no events listed specifically for Gloucester County, search the VA250 Statewide Calendar of Events for a comprehensive listing of programs across the state.