7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Friday, July 20, 2012



A visit to Berkeley Plantation in Virginia will take you on a journey back to one of the earliest English settlements in America; however its fascinating story doesn’t end in the seventeenth century. In fact, so much took place at Berkeley plantation I’ll cover it over two blog posts, so come back next month for Part Two.

Berkeley Plantation is twenty-nine miles from the first English settlement at Jamestown that was established in 1607. It is one of many plantations situated along the James River in southeastern Virginia. Traveling by land, it is located twenty-three miles southeast of Richmond along historic Rte 5 where one will see farmland, some modest commercial ventures, and exits to many other plantations.

There were a variety of reasons people emigrated from England to the colonies in the 1600’s. Some came for religious freedom, others to escape poverty, over population, and failing industries. Some immigrants were pursuing financial opportunities. Profit was the motive in 1618 when four English gentlemen met in London to establish a company to start the “Berkeley Hundred and Plantation” on the 8,000 acres and three miles of waterfront granted them by King James I.  Their expedition sailed on the “Good Ship Margaret” in August of 1619 from Bristol, England to settle, grow crops, and establish commercial ventures. One of the men, John Smyth of Nibley, was the historian of the Berkeley family and Berkeley castle in England. He also chronicled the “Berkeley expedition” and settlement of Virginia from 1609-1622.

The First Official Thanksgiving in America

Shrine at the location of the first Thanksgiving  1619
Most of us associate the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. Actually, the first official Thanksgiving occurred 590 miles south of Plymouth and almost two years before the Pilgrims and Indians shared a harvest feast. The “Margaret” dropped anchor at the Berkeley site December 4, 1619, and upon going ashore the Captain John Woodlief and the company of men dropped to their knees and prayed:

“We ordaine that this day of our ships arrival,
at the place assigned for plantacon (plantation) in the land of Virginia,
shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy
as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

Plaque commemorating the First Thanksgiving
Where the Massachusetts celebration was primarily a social occasion with the Indians, the Berkeley event was strictly a religious one. The London Company gave specific instructions that this religious ceremony was to be repeated annually, and it was . . . for a time. The Virginia settlers and the Indians initially enjoyed friendly relations; however on March 22, 1622, in a calculated plan, Chief Opechancanough led a massive attack at many of the settlements for 140 miles on either side of the James River and Berkeley was among those that perished. Jamestown prepared for the attack as they were warned of the intended massacre by an Indian named Chanco, so were able to defend themselves. The Massacre of 1622 ended the settlement of Berkeley and the annual celebration of Thanksgiving until 1958 when it was reinstated.

Another distinction Berkeley Plantation holds is that it is the site where the first bourbon whisky in America was distilled 1621-1622.

Benjamin Harrison V
The Harrison family acquired the Berkeley Plantation when Benjamin Harrison III received a charter from the King to build ships at Harrison’s Landing in the early eighteenth century. Years later, Benjamin Harrison IV married Anne Carter, daughter of Robert King Carter, another prominent Virginia family and set about to build a home. He sought out Rob Wilson, a builder and shipbuilder of some repute. However, he learned Wilson was in debtor’s prison in England. Harrison paid off the debts in exchange for Wilson’s indenture to come to Virginia and build the mansion. Only materials from the property were used, loblolly pine for lumber and bricks that came from the clay and were fired on the site. The Georgian mansion, the oldest three story brick house in Virginia, was completed in 1726. The initials of its owners Benjamin & Anne Harrison appear in a datestone on the side of the house. Their son, Benjamin V, attended nearby William & Mary, but returned to manage the plantation when his father and two sisters were killed in a lightening strike. He would go on to be a Delegate to the Continental Congress and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the fifth Governor of Virginia.
1726 Datestone on side of mansion

There is much more to tell about Berkeley Plantation, and it will require me to escape the boundaries of the colonial period, but it is far too interesting to depart without telling. . . “the rest of the story”.


  1. Wow, such interesting details. Especially for an Aussie reader!! In particular about the first Thanksgiving being two years earlier. Thanks for teaching me something new. :)

    Dotti :)

  2. Thank you for your comments Dorothy. I feel very blessed to live in the Historic Triangle,(Jamestown, Yorktown, Williamsburg), a location filled with our nation's rich history. Australia is also fascinating, and the setting for one of my favorite books, A Town Like Alice.

  3. As you know, I love this place and have been out several times. We need to go together sometime, Janet! Thanks for the pics and the post!

  4. Great post Janet. I look forward to learning more about this historic place I've never heard of! :o)

  5. Thanks Carrie and Anne. My only concern was that I might offend some Pilgrims and their friends. :-}

  6. Thank you Janet for the interesting Post about the Berkley Mansion and the first Thanksgiving. I'm learning so much about American History from you guys. Thank you.
    Many Blessings to all

  7. Thank you, Ingrid. We all have a passion for our history and it's great fun to share it with others.

  8. Thanks Janet, didnt realize that this was where first thanksgiving was held, wonder why it is now known more about this, you always hear about the pilgrims and Mass. I love old homes and this looks like it would be great one with being built only with items from land where it is.
    thanks Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

  9. .thanks for sharing

  10. Stay tuned for next months blog ~ more about Berkeley Plantation.


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