Isle of Wight County, Virginia

Isle of Wight Co., VA

Isle of Wight Co., VA


The origins of Isle of Wight County are bound up with an area bordering the south bank of the James (Powhatan) River, southeast of Jamestown, and corresponding with the territory of a tribe called the Warraskoyak. This tribe lived close to the Warraskoyak or Pagan River and held territory in the surrounding area and in a corridor along the river in both directions. Their territory followed the river shore between a creek to the north, near Hogg Island, and the Warraskoyak (Pagan) River estuary to the east. It therefore bordered the river route along which English ships of the Virginia Company were obliged to sail up to Jamestown, which lay some twenty miles to the northeast.

By 1617 the Virginia colony had been divided into the Incorporations of James City, Kecoughtan (Elizabeth City), the City of Henrico and Charles City. They were termed "the Four Ancient Boroughs," or "Four Ancient Corporations." These 'cities', or corporations, consisted of the town or village with its surrounding territory. These administrative units promoted a more uniform government of each area. However, around 1617 what began as a trickle of private plantations outside this administrative structure began to develop into a steady stream, resulting in a significant increase in the granting of particular patents. By the time of the first General Assembly in 1619, the four "Ancient Corporations" had been joined by severall recently established particular plantations: Argall's Gift, Flowerdieu Hundred, Lawnes Plantation, Martin's Brandon, Martin's Hundred, Captain Ward's Plantation, and Smythes Hundred. "Lawnes Plantation", the settlement set up by Captain Lawne on behalf of himself and his associates back in England, was the first in what later became Isle of Wight County. This settlement was decimated by disease and Captain Lawne moved to Charles City where he died in November 1619. Worsley and his associates were given until 1625 to restore the colony and were instructed to call it "the Ile of Wights Plantacon".

Although officially to be known as Isle of Wight Plantation, the area continued under its old indian name for a good many years. What is certain is the total uncertainty of the English spelling of the word, 'Warraskoyak', which is in itself a phonetic spelling of the Indian word. There are as many spellings of the word as each person struggled to write down the word using a spelling that equated the closest to what they heard. From various sources, it seems the Indian word continued in common use until around 1638/39 when 'Isle of Wight County' became commonly used in documentation.

By 1634, the spread and increase of the population meant that the government and civil administration of territory required a larger unit than the particular plantation that had suited the needs of isolated settlements. Now that large areas were becoming settled and connected, the Governor and the Council agreed to the establishment of eight counties, "which are to be governed as the shires in England". The first eight counties were the four existing Incorporations Charles City, Elizabeth City (which replaced the "heathen" name of Kecoughtan ), Henrico, and James City plus four new areas: Accomack, Charles River (York), Warrosquyoake (Isle of Wight), and Warwick River (Warwick). The boundaries of the eight counties were drawn so most colonists could reach their county court sessions, where justices dealt with property issues and criminal accusations, in one day. The boundaries of Isle of Wight County extended from Lawne's Creek on the north to the Nansemond River on the southeast and from the James River on the north-east in a south-westerly direction as far as the Colony's title allowed, for the south bounds were considered to be indefinite.

Source: Isle of Wight Historical Review, http://web.ukonline.co.uk/lordcornell/iwhr/va/iwc.htm.

Modern Day Adjacent Counties

Newport News County
Suffolk County
Southampton County
Franklin County
Surry County

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Page last modified on Thursday 16 of December, 2010 19:50:18 CST by Beverly.