Name: Richard Bennett
Born: by April 1608
Place: Wiveliscombe, Somerset, England
Chris'd: 6 Aug 1609
Place: Wiveliscombe, Somerset, England
Died: 12 Apr 1675
Place: Nansemond Co, Virginia
Married: about 1641
Bennett was born in Wiveliscombe, Somerset,
England in 1608. He arrived in Virginia at the age of twenty and was
elected to the General Assembly in 1629, representing his uncle's estate, Warrosquoake.
During the English Civil War, the Royal Governor of the colony, Sir William
Berkeley, surrendered to representatives of the English Parliament and
Bennett was unanimously elected governor by the Virginia House of
Burgesses. He held that position from 1652 to 1655.
From Vision of Britain,
1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales
described Wiveliscombe like this:
"WIVELISCOMBE-popularly Wilscombe-a small town, a parish, and a subdistrict,
in Wellington district, Somerset. The town stands on a 1ow hill,51/2 miles
NW of Wellington r. station; is traditionally said to have been built by the
Saxons, when driven by the Danes from Castle hill, which had been occupied
by the Romans; was given by Edward the Confessor to the cathedral of Wells,
and had a palace of the Bishops; is now a seat of petty sessions and a
polling place; consists of several streets, with some good modern houses and
a number of old ones; and has a post-office++ under Wellington, Somerset, a
banking office two chief inns, a police station, a town hall, a church
rebuilt in 1829, Independent and Wesleyan chapels, a national school, a
dispensary, charities ?100, a very large brewery, a weekly market on
Tuesday, great markets on the last Tuesday of Feb. and July, and fairs on 12
May and 25 Sept. The parish includes four hamlets, and comprises 5,984
acres. Real property, ?13,958; of which ?120 are in gasworks. Pop., 2,735.
Houses, 607. The manor belongs to Lord Ashburton. There are slate quarries,
and remains of Roman and Danish camps. The living is a vicarage in the
diocese of Bath and Wells. Value, ?300. Patron, the Prebendary of
Wiveliscombe.-The sub-district contains 4 parishes. Acres, 10,949. Pop.,
3,526. Houses, 764."
And here's a similar description from The National Gazetteer of Great
Britain and Ireland (1868), transcribed by Colin
"WIVELISCOMBE, a parish and market town in the hundred of Kingsbury West,
county Somerset, 15 miles S.W. of Bridgwater, 11 W. of Taunton, and 6 N.
of Wellington railway station. It is situated in a comb, or valley, from
which circumstance it takes its name, under the Maundown hills, and includes
the chapelry of Fitzhead, the town of Wiveliscombe, and the hamlets of
Croford, Ford, Langley, West Town, and Whitfield. It was a place of
importance under the Saxons, and had a palace in the 15th century, belonging
to the Bishops of Wells, to whom the manor was originally given by Edward
the Confessor. It is a polling place for the county elections, and is
governed by a bailiff, portreeve, and other officers, but is under the
jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold petty sessions on the third
Tuesday in each month. The population is close upon 3,000. The town is
lighted with gas, and contains a townhall, police station, dispensary,
reading-rooms, and branch bank. Here is situated the largest brewery in the
W. of England."
From Public Record Office, High Court of the Admiralty (HCA):
1656/7. Bennet, Richard, Esq., of Virginia, now in London, aged 49, born at
John Bennett Boddie, in Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County
Virginia, quoted from the Virginia Magazine (Vol 30, page
At a Court James City 29 March 1628, Richard Bennet, aged 20 years, sworne
and examined, sayth that Captain Preen or his assignes received satisfaction
of Mr. Edward Bennett for the passage of two men in ye Hopewell, 1623 to be
delivered to Virginia.
His age is in close approximation to that stated in the record from the
High Court of the Admiralty. We can accept that it's accurate and that
Bennett was born some time before April of 1608 and not on the date of his
christening, as is too often stated in online genealogies.
The above-quoted court record is the first mention of Bennett in Virginia
records. He was preceded in the management of his uncle Edward Bennett's
estate, Bennett's Welcome, at Warrosquoake
(later changed to Isle of Wight), by Edward's brothers Robert and Richard,
and, finally, by Edward himself in 1628. We can assume that Edward returned
to London a short time later because his nephew, Richard, was elected to the
General Assembly as representative for Warrosquoake the following year.
Over the next decade Richard Bennett became a large landowner and successful
politician and was appointed to the twelve-member Governor's
Council in 1642. That same year, because of a scarcity of Puritan
ministers, Bennett sent his brother, Phillip, to Boston for recruits, and a
congregation of 118 members was soon organized.19 Joseph Dunn
wrote in his history of Nansemond County, Virginia (1907),
The rapid growth of the Independents disturbed the mind of the authorities
and active measures were taken to suppress them. Religion and politics were
practically synonymous in those days and Independence in religion spelled
disloyalty in politics. England was in the midst of the fierce struggle
between King and Parliament, and Virginia was loyalist to the
Sir William Berkeley, a favorite of King Charles I, was appointed
governor the same year Bennett assumed his place on the Governor's Council.
Interestingly, Berkeley was born in Bruton, Somersetshire, just more than
fifty miles from Bennett's own home town of Wiveliscombe. The men,
undoubtedly, would have recognized the fact early on. But the similarity
between the two probably stops there — with ages and places of origin:
Bennett was from a family of tanners and successful businessmen. Berkeley
was born into the aristocracy. His father, Sir Maurice, was a knighted
politician and soldier whose lineage dated back to the twelfth century. His
elder brother, Charles, was the 2nd Viscount Fitzhardinge, and the next
eldest, John, the 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton. Still, although the men
soon became political rivals, they appear to have set their differences
aside in later life.
Sir Francis Wyatt
handed over the governorship to Berkeley on 8 March 1642. Only a year
later, in March 1643, the new governor instructed the House of Burgesses to
enact the following law:
FFOR the preservation of the puritie of doctrine & vnitie of the
church, It is enacted that all ministers whatsoever which shall reside in
the collony are to be conformable to the orders and constitutions of the
church of England, and the laws therein established, and not otherwise to be
admitted to teach or preach publickly or privatly, And that the Gov. and
Counsel do take care that all nonconformists vpon notice of them shall be
compelled to depart the collony with all conveniencie.12
Church leaders were banished and exiled. Some were imprisoned, and the
Puritan community as a whole was disarmed. On 15 July 1642, Virginia
Puritan leader Rev William Durand wrote to Rev John Davenport of the New
Haven Colony that "if ever the lord had cause to consume the cittyes of
Sodom and Gomorrah he might justly and more severely execute his wrath upon
Virginia."22 Durand's continued activism led to his banishment to
Maryland in 1648. After the beheading of King Charles in 1649, Governor
Berkeley offered asylum to "royalist gentlemen" and proclaimed Charles II
the King of Virginia.
Virginia existed by charter from the King. But Maryland was a
proprietorship under the the 2nd Baron Baltimore, Cecilius Calvert.
Although a Catholic, Baltimore was sympathetic to the Protestants, if
largely to keep peace with Parliament. In 1649 he elevated the lukewarm
Puritan and Virginia, William
Stone to the governorship, and Stone in April the same year, passed the
Toleration Act, which further encouraged emigration to Maryland.
Bennett and Edward Lloyd, both having been "presented by the Sheriff of
[Nansemond County, Virginia] for seditions sectuaries, for not repairing to
their church and for refusing to hear common prayer" crossed the Chesapeake
Bay with ten families, founding the Puritan settlement of Providence, the
site from which Annapolis sprung. More than a thousand Virginian
Protestants soon followed,15 and Bennett established a new
plantation at Towne
Despite the Toleration Act, which promised political protection to all
Christians, the Puritans were concerned that its benefactors, Lord Baltimore
and William Stone, were Royalists, and that the act was an instrument for
the King. According to one source, Bennett returned to England to confer
with Parliament.24 His purpose and actions while there are
unknown, but in 1651 Parliament empaneled a commission of five —
Captain Robert Denis, Richard Bennett, Colonel Thomas Stegge, a former
Speaker of the House of Burgesses (1642-1643), Captain William Claiborne,
who had a nefarious history in Maryland, and Captain Edmund Curtis —
to reduce "Virginia and Maryland to their due obedience to the Commonwealth
of England." Two fleets were dispatched that October. The first was
commanded by Sir George
Ayscue and relieved Barbados of royal sympathizers. A second fleet of
fifteen vessels commanded by Robert Denis, and carrying six hundred men,
sailed for Virginia. Denis and Stegge lost their lives on the frigate
John, along with eight other ships, in a storm.16 The four
remaining ships, including the 30-gun frigate Guinea
under the command of Captain Edmund Curtis, arrived in Virginia the next
Berkeley, intending to resist, stationed twelve hundred soldiers in and
around Jamestown. But with the flight to France of Charles II and the loss
of Barbados to Commonwealth forces, he decided to negotiate. He surrendered
his office on 12 March 1652 and was permitted to retire to his estate, Green Spring
Plantation. Almost immediately, Bennett and Claiborne, perhaps at the
head of a small army, went into Maryland and proclaimed the dissolution of
the government. Maryland governor William Stone resigned his post on 29
March and a commission of six, including Bennett, was appointed to
administer the province. The next day the House of Burgesses unanimously
elected Bennett as governor and on 5 May signed into law the Treaty
of Jamestown, Virginia's formal surrender to the English Parliament.
The power to govern the colony was relinquished to the House of Burgesses,
making the body a colonial facsimile of the House of Commons in England.
Stone, who seems to have regularly bent with the prevailing winds, was
allowed to re-assume the title of governor of governor in Maryland, but the
power of state remained with the two Parliamentary Commissioners, Richard
Bennett and William Claiborne who, in turn, empaneled a commission of ten to
run the every day affairs of Maryland.26 Later that year, Bennett
led negotiations with the Susquehannock and, on 28 June, signed a treaty, which ceded large
tracts of land to the English, including that on which Annapolis now stands.
It was signed by Richard Bennett, Edward Lloyd, Thomas Marsh, William
Fuller, and Leonard Strong.11
Bennett's career and the political life in the Tidewater region settled
down during the next three years, and Berkeley quietly continued his
botanical research and correspondences at Green Spring House. By all
accounts, Bennett ran the business of the colony with a steady hand. But he
and like-minded Virginians were of the opinion that the whole region,
including the lands the Calverts declared dominion over, should be rejoined
with Virginia. Captain William Fuller, one of Maryland's ten commissioners,
sought a militant solution and pressed the matter in possibly unwarranted
means. But Cromwell, busy in keeping in revolution alive in England, and
anxious to keep the peace with Lord Baltimore, sent a stern warning to
Bennett and Claiborne:
Whereas the differences between the Lord Baltimore and the inhabitants of
Virginia concerning the bounds by them respectively claimed, are depending
before our Council and yet undetermined; and whereas we are credibly
informed you have notwithstanding gone into his plantation in Maryland and
countenanced some people there in opposing the Lord Baltimore's officers,
whereby, and with other forces from Virginia, you have much disturbed that
colony and people, to the endangering of tumults and much bloodshed there,
if not timely prevented: We, therefore, at the request of the Lord
Baltimore, and of divers other persons of quality here, who are engaged by
great adventures in his interest, do for preventing of disturbances or
tumults there, will and require you and all others deriving any authority
from you, to forbear disturbing the Lord Baltimore, or his officers or
people in Maryland; and to permit all things to remain as they were before
any disturbance or alteration made by you, or by any other upon pretense of
authority from you, till the said differences above mentioned be determined
by us here, and we give farther order therein.27
However it came to pass, Bennett didn't manage control of the situation
as instructed by Cromwell. William Stone, who was still provisionally, if
contested, the official governor of Maryland, began to react to Fuller's
provocations. He raised a force of several hundred royalists with which to
secure, once again, the province in the name of Lord Baltimore. Captain
Fuller organized an equally strong Parliamentary force and confronted the
would-be rebels on 25 March 1655 near Bennett's Maryland plantation, at Horn
Point along the Severn River (now part of Annapolis). This engagement is
known to history as the Battle of the
Severn. Governor Stone, along with thirty-two others, was wounded.
Seventeen of the royalist troops were killed, and four of them executed
following the battle; and that would have been Stone's fate had cooler heads
not prevailed. As it turned out, this was the only battle on North American
soil in regards to the English Civil War, the first time that American met
American in battle, and the last battle in Parliament's war with its own
Bennett surely understand the enormous political consequences of the
action and resigned the governorship a week later. Curiously, only the day
before, on March 30, Berkeley sold one of his Jamestown homes to "Richard Bennett,
Esq. Governour of Virginia."29 Later that year, the government
of Virginia, now under the stewardship of Governor Edward Digges, received
the expected letter from Cromwell. It's noteworthy that Bennett is referred
to as Colonel Bennett:
Whitehall, 26th September, 1655
It seems by yours of the 29th of June and by the relation we received by
Colonel Bennet, that some mistake or scruple hath arisen concerning the
sense of our letters of the 12th of January last; as if by our letters we
had intimated that we would have a stop put to the proceedings of those
commissioners who were authorized to settle the civil government of
Maryland. Which was not at all in tended by us; nor so much as proposed to
us by those who made addresses to us to obtain our said letter; but our
intention (as our said letter doth plainly import) was only to prevent and
forbid any force or violence to be offered by either of the plantations of
Virginia or Maryland, from one to the other, upon the differences concerning
their bounds; the said differences being then under the consideration of
Ourself and Council here, which, for your more full satisfaction, we have
thought fit to signify to you; and rest
Your loving friend
The initial P refers to, incidentally, "Protector."
[timeline to be developed here]
Toward the end of his life, Bennett became interested in Quakerism, if
not actually converting. William
Edmundson, a preacher who came to the colonies from England with George Fox's party in
1672, wrote of Bennett,
Richard Bennett, alias, Major General Richard Bennett and Colonel Teve, with
others, and a great many Friends, some came a great way to that meeting....
He was glad to hear there was such care and order among us and wished it had
been so with others. He further said he was a man of great estate, and many
of our Friends were mean [poor] men, therefore he desired to contribute with
them. He likewise asked me how I was treated by the Governor, he having
heard that I was with him. I told him that he was brittle and peevish, and
I could get nothing fastened on him. He asked me if the Governor called me
Dog, Rogue, etc? I said, No, he did not call me so. Then said he, you took
him in his best humor they being his usual terms when angry, for he is an
enemy to every appearance of good. They were tender and loving, so we
parted, the Major General desiring to see me at his house, which I was
willing to do, and accordingly went. He was a brave, solid, wise man,
received the truth, and he died in the same, leaving two Friends his
Richard Bennett's Family
Various web accounts state that Richard married twice and try to assign
several children to the first marriage. This is due, at least in part, to
confusion between the governor and Richard
Bennett Sr (1625-1709) of Blackwater, the probable son of Thomas Bennett of Mulberry Island. He is also often
confused with his uncle, Richard Bennett, who had managed Edward Bennett's
estate until his death in 1626. He left a wife and five children in
England. In any case, if the former governor did have additional children,
they were not named in his will (below).
||She m1 Theodorick Bland of Westover, m2 Col St Leger Codd.
|Richard Bennett Jr
||Married Henrietta Maria Neale, daughter of James
Neale of Maryland. They had son Richard Bennett III, the richest man in
Maryland of the time. He died without male issue and with him his
grandfather's lineage daughtered out.
||Married Col Charles Scarborough of Accomac County,
the son of Edmund Scarborough. She died 4 Aug 1719 in Accomac County,
Will of Governor Richard Bennett
It's noteworthy that Bennett mentions two cousins, "Silvester, the wife
of Major Nicholas Hill," and "Mary, the wife of Mr Luke Cropley," said to
have been daughters of Richard's uncle Edward Bennett. Ann is the only
child he specifically named. Elizabeth is referenced through her children.
Son, Richard Bennett had drowned in 1676.
As posted on the BENNETT-L Archives at Rootweb:
Extracted from the Principal Registry of the Probate Divorce and Admiralty
Division of the High Court of Justice
In the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
I, Richard Bennett, of Nansemond River in Virginia being sick in body but in
perfect memory doe make and ordain this my last will testament as followith
vizt - Imprs I give my body to the earth and my Spirit to God that gave it.
Item. I give and bequeath unto the Parish where I now live and have so long
lived all that parcel of land being three hundred acres more or less which
Thomas Bolton holdeth by lease and which he now lives. The rents & profits
thereof to be received yearly by the Church-wardens of this parish and by
them disposed of towards the relief of four poor aged or impotent persons
whom they judge to stand in most need of help and this to continue and be
done for as ever long as ye land continues.
Item. I give and bequeath unto Richard Buxton, the son of Thomas Buxton, the
rents & profits of that parcel of land on which Edmond Belson now liveth to
him and his heirs for ever the same to be paid unto him when he shall come
to be twenty years of age, but if he lives not to that time or afterward die
without issue, then the said land & ye rents thereof to be and continue to
be paid as now it is.
Item. I give unto my daughter Ann fifty pounds
sterling beside her debts which she now oweth me.
Item. I give an bequeath unto my grandchildren Elizabeth, Ann and Bennett
Scarburgh or any other of my daughter Scarburgh children which shall be born
hereafter all that parcel of land lying in Pocomoke River on the eastern
shore in Maryland being two thousand eight hundred acres by patent to them
or either of them or either of their heirs for ever and also two thousand
five hundred acres by patent lying in Niccocomoco River on the eastern shore
Item. I give unto my cousin Silvester, the wife of Major Nicholas Hill,
twelve thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give to my cousin Mary, the wife of Mr. Luke Cropley, twenty pounds
Item. I give unto Richard Hubard of Pigg Point one thousand pounds of
Item. I give unto Michael Ward and the widow of John Lewis, to each of them
one thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto the widow Prince one thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto Charles Howard & Richard Higgens to each of them one
thousand pounds of tobacco & more to Charles Howard the land which he
lives on for eleven years.
Item. I give to Thomas Chilcote & Thomas Garrat to each of them two
thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto William Kitchen and John Blye to each of them one thousand
pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto Patrick Edmondston and the widow Riddick to each of them
one thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto John Woster who married the relic of John Salsbury one
thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto William Yearrat of Pagan Creek and to the wife of Mr.
Thomas Taberer to each of them two thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto Elizabeth Outland of Chucatuke Creek and Thomas Jordan of
the same place to each of them two thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto James day twelve thousand pounds of tobacco and if Mr.
Taberer see cause, he may add three thousand more to it.
Item. I give to all my servants that now liveth with me both Christians and
Negroes to each of them one thousand pounds of tobacco only the two
hirelings excepted viz - Richard Higgins & John Turner. The rest of my
personal and real estate and all lands and stock of what nature or kind so
ever it be to go to my grandchild Richard Bennett, to him and his heirs
forever, my said grandchild now residing in Bristoll, and in default of such
heirs then to come to the children of Theodorick Bland & Charles Scarburg.
Lastly, I do hereby declare and ordain and appoint James Jofey, Mr. Thomas
Hodges, and Edmond Belson or any two of them also Robert Pealle to be
overseers of this my last will and testament allowing & approving for good
and effectual to all intents and purposes what so ever my said executors or
any two of them shall do or cause to be done concerning the estate from time
to time in relation to the estate.
In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand and seal this 15th day of March
1674 - RI BENNETT (LS) - Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence of us
- JOHN SPEIRS, ENO EARLE, CHARLES HOWARD, GEORGE DAVIS.
Proved in Nansemond Court the 12th of April 1675 by the oaths of Mr. Eno
Earle, Charles Howard, & George Davis to be the last will & testament of
Major General R. Bennett.
Teste: JNO LEAR CHR Cur.
Proved 3rd August 1676.
Published Biographies of Richard Bennett
Side-Lights on Maryland History, Vol.2
Richard Bennett was sent to America as his father's3
representative in the Virginia Company and appeared as a member of the House
of Burgesses [sic] there in the year 1629.17 In 1642 we find him
a member of the Council of Virginia and Governor under Parliament from 1652
to 1655. Prior to this (1649-50) he had left Virginia with the Puritans and
settled at Greenberry Point [sic]. He was not long, however, in taking ship
for England and proved himself a diplomat by keeping on good terms with the
powers that be.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 7
Recognizing his need for men of ability and the governing class, Cromwell
saw to it that two of the cleverest of old England's sons should be his
allies in his attempt to subdue the colonies. Therefore, in 1651,
Parliament appointed Richard Bennett and William Claiborne "Commissioners
for the reducing of Virginia and Maryland to their due obedience to the
Commonwealth of England." This was finally accomplished on March 29, 1652,
when Governor Stone was deposed and six commissioners were appointed by
Bennett and Claiborne to govern Maryland in the name of Parliament. Later
in the same year Richard Bennett and Edward Lloyd concluded a treaty of
peace with the fierce Susquehanna Indians, by which they relinquished their
lands of large area in Maryland.
Affairs in Virgina being now ready for adjustment, Richard Bennett returned
to the first home of his adoption and was made Governor at once, which
office he filled for several years. In 1655 he went from Virginia to
England as Colonial agent, and later was made major-general of the Virginia
Governor Bennett, according to the best authorities, married Ann Utie,
daughter [sic] of Colonel John Utie, of the Virginia Council, and had three
children -- Richard Bennett, the second, Elizabeth and Ann.
Bennett, Richard, colonial governor of Maryland and Virginia (1652-57), by
appointment of Oliver Cromwell, was born in England, early in the
seventeenth century. Being a prominent Puritan and one of the colony in
Virginia, he was, upon the arrival of the frigate Guinea, and the
army which established Cromwell's power in America, appointed a
parliamentary commissioner. Shortly after he was chosen governor of both
colonies by the Puritan element, with Capt. William Claiborne, "the evil
genius of Maryland," as his secretary of state. In their capacity as
commissioners they arrived at St. Mary's, Md., toward the end of March,
1652, and having deposed Gov. Stone, on the 29th issued a proclamation
divesting him and Lord Baltimore of all authority and power in the province.
They then returned to Virginia, but in June established their government
more firmly in Maryland, appointing Capt. Stone and a special council to
direct the affairs of the province under their control. By act of
parliament practical liberty was granted to Virginia under the protectorate,
and laws were formulated by the people for the "general good and prosperity"
in perfect accord with the new regime. With Maryland it was different: that
colony was reduced to submission only after a formidable display of military
power. The lord proprietor did not rest quietly under the flagrant wrong
and injustice which had been done him. He directed Gov. Stone, in 1654, to
re-establish the proprietary, and the loyal element was slow to engage in
armed resistance to Gov. Bennett. They were, however, ultimately
unsuccessful, and the parliamentarians continued in power until the close of
1657, when Gov. Bennett retired into private life. Gov. Bennett was
married to Henrietta Maria, daughter of Capt. James Neal, formerly a
merchant in Spain, where he was in the employ of King Charles and the Duke
of York.4 With his four daughters, all natives of Spain, he had
been naturalized by the assembly of Maryland. After Bennett's death his
widow was married to Philemon Lloyd, by whom she was the mother of many
children. Prominent among Bennett's descendants was his grandson, Richard
Bennett (1667-1749), a wealthy planter of Queen Ann, Md.
Citation: J. Frederick Fausz, "Richard Bennett (bap. 1609-ca. 1675)."
Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 9 Oct.
2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2019.
Richard Bennett (bap. 1609-ca. 1675)
Contributed by J. Frederick Fausz and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Richard Bennett served as governor of Virginia (1652-1655), in the House
of Burgesses [sic] (1629), and served two stints on the governor's Council
(1642-1652; 1658-1675). Born into an English merchant family, he came to
Virginia around 1628 to run his uncle's estate and set about acquiring
thousands of acres of his own as well as importing Puritan settlers who
helped provide him an important political base. In 1646, he led a force of
Puritans to assist the exiled governor of Maryland and helped start a
Puritan migration to the colony. After Parliament's defeat of Charles I in
the English Civil Wars, Bennett negotiated the bloodless submission of the
Virginia and Maryland colonies, which were loyal to the Crown. The General
Assembly then elected him governor of Virginia, and during his term he tried
but failed to politically unite the Chesapeake Bay colonies. Not long after
Catholics and Puritans fought a bloody battle in Maryland, Bennett stepped
down as governor, but in 1657 he helped negotiate a treaty that restored
Maryland's charter rights. He then served on the governor's Council and, as
a major general in the Virginia militia, helped defend the colony during the
Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667). Bennett died early in 1675. MORE...
Bennett was one of the sons of Thomas Bennett, a member of a large family
of English merchants who dealt extensively in international trade during the
seventeenth century. His mother's name is unknown. Bennett was probably
born in or near Wivelscombe, Somersetshire, England, where he was baptized
on August 6, 1609. He could scarcely have avoided being involved in the
young Virginia colony. His uncle Edward Bennett, one of the great London
and Amsterdam merchants, was auditor of the Virginia Company of London and
in 1621 patented a large property called Bennett's Welcome near the former
Indian village of Warraskoyack in what became Isle of Wight County.
In about 1628 Richard Bennett traveled to Virginia to take over
management of Bennett's Welcome. Two of his uncles and a younger brother
had perished in the colony, but Richard Bennett thrived and used the
transatlantic influence and affluence of his family to achieve almost
immediate prominence as a prosperous planter and political leader in
Virginia. He lived on another of Edward Bennett's properties, Bennett's
Choice, on the Nansemond River, and during the 1630s patented more than
2,000 acres of land at Bennett Point and Parraketo Point. Eventually he
amassed more than 7,000 acres in Virginia and Maryland, with much of it
obtained through the headright system, which awarded him a right to 50 acres
for each colonist he transported to Virginia. Overall his family sponsored
the immigration of approximately 600 settlers, many of them Puritans, who
were to provide him a base of political influence after 1640.
Sir William Berkeley
Bennett's political career began with his election to the House of
Burgesses [sic] as a representative from Warrosquyoake in 1629, and he
became a commissioner for that district two years later. He was appointed
to the governor's Council in 1642, the same year that he patented 2,000
acres along the south bank of the Rappahannock River. During the turbulent
years of the English Civil Wars and Protectorate, Bennett was the
highest-ranking and most active Puritan leader in the Chesapeake. With his
brother Philip Bennett he recruited three Puritan ministers from the
Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1642 to serve the Calvinists of Upper Norfolk
County. Governor Sir William Berkeley and other Anglicans were hostile
toward the Puritans, however, and made them unwelcome.
In 1646 Bennett organized a mercenary Puritan army to assist the exiled
governor of Maryland, Leonard Calvert, in ousting a gang of brigands from
his capital at Saint Marys City. Many of the mercenaries remained in
Maryland and became the vanguard of a vast Puritan migration to that colony
during the years between 1648 and 1650. Bennett's commercial and political
connections by then included William Claiborne, of Virginia, and Maurice
Thompson, the most influential of all the Puritan merchants of London.
Throughout the period Bennett engaged in profitable commerce with England
and the Netherlands.
On September 26, 1651, the English Council of State appointed Bennett and
Claiborne to a four-man commission to force or negotiate the submission of
the Chesapeake Bay colonies to the Commonwealth of England. Supported by a
Parliamentary fleet, Bennett, Claiborne, and Edmund Curtis, who succeeded to
the commission after the other two original members drowned during the
transatlantic voyage, accepted Virginia's bloodless capitulation at
Jamestown on March 12, 1652, and obtained the surrender of Maryland's
leaders two weeks later.
The General Assembly then elected Bennett to the vacant office of governor
of Virginia. He served from April 30, 1652, to March 31, 1655, with
Claiborne as secretary of the colony. Their administration represented a
spectacular temporary triumph for Maurice Thompson's London-based group of
mercantile imperialists, which had significantly influenced the Chesapeake's
commercial and political evolution since the 1620s. Hoping to achieve the
elusive goal of a united, centrally administered Chesapeake, Bennett and
Claiborne sought to abrogate Maryland's charter rights to the land north of
the Potomac River. By appointing Protestants friendly to Virginia to
offices in Maryland and placing like-minded militia colonels on the Council
in Jamestown they brought a measure of stability to the Chesapeake. On July
5, 1652. Bennett and a select group of Virginia Puritan émigrés ended a
decade of Indian warfare in Maryland by negotiating a comprehensive peace
treaty with the powerful Susquehannocks, Claiborne's longtime business
partners in the upper Chesapeake beaver trade.
Bennett's ambitious attempts to expand Virginia's political control
throughout the Chesapeake region, with unprecedented authority accorded to
the House of Burgesses, was a significant milestone, but such profound and
rapid change was destined to be short-lived. Given the prevalent
revolutionary turmoil in England, Bennett's government lacked the support it
needed to withstand either the growing resentment of Virginia's planters
toward the new Navigation Acts, designed as they were to terminate the
profitable commerce between the colonies and the Netherlands that had helped
make men like Bennett wealthy, or the resistance of Catholics and Anglicans
to the ideological rigidity of the Puritan leadership in Maryland. The
bloody Battle of the Severn on March 25, 1655, fought between the Catholic
pro-Calvert forces and Puritans near Bennetts's own lands at Greenbury
Point [sic], Maryland, produced such gruesome atrocities that it probably
precipitated Bennett's retirement from the governor's office six days later.
It is to Bennett's credit that no such turmoil occurred in
Virginia and that even political rivals with religious differences respected
the peaceful succession of power at Jamestown. In December 1656 the General
Assembly appointed Bennett one of its lobbyists in London, but instead of
acting to increase Virginia's power, at Cromwell's instigation he helped
negotiate a treaty of November 30, 1657, with Cecil Calvert, second baron
Baltimore, that restored Maryland's charter rights and original boundaries.
Bennett served again on the governor's Council from 1658 until his death,
much of the time during the second administration of his old adversary, Sir
William Berkeley. From 1662 to 1672 he also served as the second major
general ever appointed in the Virginia militia and helped defend the colony
against invasion during the Second Anglo-Dutch War.
Bennett's political designs for a greater Virginia were thwarted, but in
his personal life he achieved linkages across the many divisions that
separated the two Chesapeake colonies. Late in the 1630s he married Maryann
Utie, widow of Councillor John Utie. Their only son, Richard Bennett,
attended Harvard College, married into a prominent Catholic family in
Maryland, resided there for most of his life, and had a namesake son who
became one of the wealthiest planters in Maryland. Bennett's daughters
chose influential husbands from both colonies. Elizabeth Bennett married
Charles Scarburgh, a Puritan from the Virginia Eastern Shore, and Anna
Bennett first wed Theodorick Bland, of Virginia, and then married St. Leger
Codd, of Northumberland County, Virginia, and Cecil County, Maryland.
Bennett bequeathed 5,300 acres of land on Maryland's Eastern Shore to
three of his grandchildren and donated 300 acres to his local parish to be
applied "towards the relief of four poor, aged, or impotent persons."
Bennett died, probably at Bennett's Choice, between March 15, 1675, when he
dated his will, and April 12, 1675, when it was proved in court.
- August 6, 1609 - Richard Bennett is baptized at Wivelscombe, Somersetshire, England. He is the son of Thomas Bennett, a member of a large family of English merchants who deal exclusively in international trade.
- 1621 - Edward Bennett, one of the great London and Amsterdam merchants and auditor of the Virginia Company of London, patents a large property called Bennett's Welcome near the former Indian village of Warraskoyack in what will become Isle of Wight County.
- 1628 - About this year, Richard Bennett travels to Virginia to take over management of Bennett's Welcome from his uncle, Edward Bennett. In the next ten years he will patent more than 2,000 acres of his own and amass more than 7,000 acres in Virginia and Maryland.
- 1629 - Richard Bennett is elected to the House of Burgesses [sic] as a representative from Warrosquyoake.
- 1631 - Richard Bennett becomes a commissioner for Warrosquyoake.
- 1640 - Having amassed thousands of acres of land in Virginia and Maryland and imported 600 settlers, many of them Puritans, Richard Bennett establishes a base of political influence.
- 1642 - Richard Bennett is appointed to the governor's Council. In the same year he patents 2,000 acres along the south bank of the Rappahannock River and recruits three Puritan ministers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to serve the Calvinists of Upper Norfolk County.
- 1646 - Richard Bennett organizes a mercenary Puritan army to assist the exiled governor of Maryland, Leonard Calvert, in ousting a gang of brigands from his capital at Saint Mary's City.
- 1648-1650 - A vast Puritan migration to Maryland is led, in part, by a group of Puritan mercenaries who came to the colony in 1646 under the leadership of Richard Bennett.
- September 26, 1651 - The English Council of State appoints Richard Bennett and William Claiborne to a four-man commission to force or negotiate the submission of the Chesapeake Bay colonies to the Commonwealth of England.
- March 12, 1652 - Supported by a Parliamentary fleet, Richard Bennett, William Claiborne, and Edmund Curtis accept Virginia's bloodless capitulation at Jamestown. Two weeks later they obtain the surrender of Maryland's leaders as well.
- July 5, 1652 - Governor Richard Bennett and a select group of Virginia Puritan émigrés end a decade of Indian warfare in Maryland by negotiating a comprehensive peace treaty with the powerful Susquehannocks.
- March 25, 1655 - The bloody Battle of the Severn is fought between the Catholic pro-Calvert forces and Puritans near Governor Richard Bennett's own lands at Greenbury Point [sic], Maryland.
- March 31, 1655 - Richard Bennett vacates the office of governor of Virginia following the bloody Battle of the Severn, fought near his own lands at Greenbury Point [sic], Maryland.
- December 1656 - The General Assembly appoints Richard Bennett one of its lobbyists in London.
- November 30, 1657 - Richard Bennett, acting as a lobbyist for the General Assembly in London, helps negotiate a treaty with Cecil Calvert, second baron Baltimore, that restores Maryland's charter rights and original boundaries.
- 1658-1675 - Richard Bennett serves on the governor's Council, much of the time during the second administration of his old adversary, Sir William Berkeley.
- 1662-1672 - Richard Bennett serves as the second major general ever appointed in the Virginia militia and helps defend the colony against invasion during the Second Anglo-Dutch War.
- March 15, 1675 - Richard Bennett dates his will.
- April 12, 1675 - Richard Bennett's will is proved in court. He dies sometime between March 15 and this date.
Fausz, J. Frederick. "Bennett, Richard." In The Dictionary of Virginia
Biography, Vol. 1, edited by John T. Kneebone, J. Jefferson Looney, Brent
Tarter, and Sandra Gioia Treadway, 445-447. Richmond: Library of Virginia,
Richard Bennett's Uncles
Richard Bennett certainly owed much of his position to the success of his
uncle, Edward Bennett, of whom I'll write more about here. Edward was an
Elder of the Ancient Church at Amsterdam, Commissioner of Virginia to the
Court of England, a Deputy Governor of the of the British Merchants of
Holland, and served in the Virginia General Assembly in 1628, perhaps the
only time he was resident in the colony. By one historians accounting, he
was the Virginia Company's largest investor.
In April 1621, Sir Edwin Sandys,
recommended Bennett's admittance to the Virginia Company.7 He was
responsible for transporting about 600 colonists to Virginia, the first of
whom arrived in February 1622 on the Sea Flower. According to Boddie
he owned the ship Edward of London, which he captained in 1627 during
the Duke of Buckingham's (then the Lord High Admiral) "ill fated expedition
for the relief of the Hougenots besieged in Rochelle by Cardinal
Richelieu."8 He is also believed to have owned Gift of
God, which transported settlers in (at least) 1618, 1622, and 1623.
Using the Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1625-26 page
98 as his source, Boddie tells us that, "while on one of his own vessels, he
was captured by the pirate Campaign."9
In April 2019, Brian Collingridge, one of the authors of Wiveliscombe:
A History of a Somerset Market Town, sent the following passage of the
book to me:10
Edward Bennett was another rich clothier in Wiveliscombe who
made a fortune elsewhere, this time in London. In 1623 he shipped three
packs of linen cloth bearing his mark to Virginia. His nephew Richard
Bennett subsequently became the Governor and Captain General there for
Oliver Cromwell until 1655.
The following persons were listed under the muster of Mr Edward Bennett
on 7 February 1624/5. Note that he himself is not present. Although he did
spend time in Virginia in 1628, his family was born and raised in
|Henery Pinke||Mr Edward Bennett||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||London Marchannt||1619||
|John Bate||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Addam||1621||
|Peeter Collins||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Addam||1621||
|Wassell Webling||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||James||1621||
|Antonio not given||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||James||1621||"a Negro"
|Christopher Reynolds||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||John & Francis||1622||
|Luke Chappman||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||John & Francis||1622||
|Edward Maybank||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||John & Francis||1622||
|John Attkins||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Guifte||1623||
|William Denum||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Guifte||1623||
|ffrancis Banks||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Guifte||1623||
|Mary not given||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Margrett & John||1622||"a Negro Woman"
Antonio, above, is believed to have been the Anthony
Johnson and the same man who became a successful farmer in Maryland. It
should be noted that there was another Anthony, a negro, indentured to Captain William
It's not yet known how these Bennetts were related to Thomas Bennett "of
Mulberry Island." We find this for his muster on 7 February 1624/5.
|Benjamine Simes||Thomas Bennett||Basses Choyse||James Citty||33||
|Thomas Bennett||"||head||Basses Choyse||James Citty||38||Neptune||1618
|Mary Bennett||"||Basses Choyse||James Citty||18||Southampton||1622
|Roger Heford||"||Basses Choyse||James Citty||22||Returne||1623
With two brothers, Richard and Robert, having died in Virginia while
managing Edward's estate, Edward appears in the Virginia record as Burgess
in March 1628. His nephews (brothers to one another), Richard, the future
governor, age 20, and Robert, age 18, also appear in that year. Although
they are not listed on any extant ship manifests, we might assume that the
trio traveled to Virginia together.
Edward's brother Robert was the first of the Bennett family to manage
Edward's estate in Virginia. Boddie puts him on Bennett's plantation during
the 1622 attack by the Powhatan Confederacy that killed 347 colonists, 53 of
whom were residing on the plantation. According to Virginia Immigrants
and Adventurers, the Virginia Company authorizes Bennett, being the
master of the Samuel, to trade in Virginia.23 The 1623
letter he wrote from Bennett's Welcome to Edward, then residing in London,
is published in full in Boddie.5 It's several paragraphs long and
details much of the political and economic news of Virginia. But it also
contains genealogical information. Robert writes, with spelling
Pray forget me not to all the rest of our good friends, yourself and your
wife, my brother Richard and his wife, with your father-in-law and mother
[Jasper and Joanne Bourne of London] and all the rest not forgetting my
children whom I pray God to bless and us deliver and send us a joyful
meeting. This is in some haste. I leave you to the merciful tuition of Thy
Almighty in whom I rest.
He also asks his brother to advice "Mr Bourne" that his son is staying
with him due to the scarcity of provisions.
Boddie states that Robert Bennett had died by November 20th of the same
year because "that is the date of a manuscript document in the Library of
Congress that relates to the estate and debts of the late Robert Bennett."
There is mention of this record in David Clapp's The New England
(1877): "Robert Bennett, one of the proprietors of the plantation, is
enrolled as residing at James City, and soon died. There is a warrant
preserved, dated November 20, 1623, for the collection of the salary of
William Bennett, minister for two years, from the estate of Robert
Bennett... William Bennett was the first preacher at Waraskoyak. He came
in 1621 in the ship Sea Flower, and the next year Catharine, his
wife, twenty-two years of age, arrived in the Abigail. He died about
the year 1624, leaving a widow and son William about three weeks old." (p
Robert Bennett is found living at James City on "A List of the
Livinge," a census taken throughout the Virginia colony on 16 February
1623. We already know from his letter that his family was not with him.
But there's more to learn from the census. A family of Bennetts -- an
unamed wife and two children -- are living in Elizabeth City with Thomas
Dewe and his wife who, according the Dewe family researchers, was Elizabeth
Bennett (born 1607) and possibly a daughter of Robert's. If this is not
Robert's family residing with her, perhaps it's one belonging to another
brother. It's also possible that his family returned to England. Also
found on the 1623 census is a Samuel Bennett of Elizabeth City, a Samuel
Bennett at Bricke Row, a John Bennett at Warwick Squrake, and another Robert
Bennett living in a household with John Booth on James Island. The 1624
census lists a Robert Bennett, 23, servant of Thomas Willoby of Elizabeth
City. He arrived on the Jacob in 1624.
Robert's brother Richard was the next of the family to manage Bennett's
Welcome. He also died after a short stay. Boddie writes that the General
Court recorded on 13 October 1626,
After ye death of Mr. Richard Bennett who deceased about ye 28 August last
and without any sufficient or particular disposition of goods and other
matter concerning both his estate and ye estate of Mr. Edward Bennett, his
In other words, he left no will or other provisions for his estate. In
Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, Martha McCartney writes,
An inventory was made of his estate, which was entrusted to Lodwick Pearle.
English probate officials noted that [he] was from St
Bartholomew by Exchange in London.24
St Bartholomew is a parish in London. Its church burned down in 1666.
This fact could be of use should Bennett records for the parish during this
Richard was married to Judith Brent as shown in the 1624 will of her father, Edward
Brent, proved the following year by Sir Francis Wyatt, the Governor and
Captain General of Virginia.14 Among the heirs listed are
"Elizabeth Bennett, if she be remaining in Mr Richard Bennett's house, and
to Jeane Bennett, her sister ... and to Richard Bennett, servant to Mr
Having lost two brothers in Virginia, it was time for Edward himself to
make an appearance. As stated above, Edward and his nephews, Richard (the
future governor) and Robert, are first mentioned in the Virginia records in
Although there was a John Bennett listed in Virginia in 1623 and
living on the Bennett Plantation, this may not be the same man. We know of
him only through the will of his brother-in-law Jasper Bourne. This record
makes it clear that brothers John and Edward married Bourne sisters. I'm
not sure where this transcription first appeared. Small spelling
corrections have been made.
Jasper Bourne, of Stanmore Magna, Middlesex. Feb. 1, 1635, gent. Proved by
John Benitt, May 4, 1636. [67 Pile.] My wife Joan. My son John Benett, of
London, merchant, standeth bound to my nephew John Bourne, of Lincoln's Inn,
in ;£100. My grandchildren, children of my daughter Elizabeth Benitt,
Pictures of my late Brothers William and Thomas Bourne, decd . My daughter
Sylvestre, wife of my son William Hutchinson, clerke. My grandson Jasper
Fell, son of Henry Fell, late of Hampsted, Midd*, gent., & of my daughter
Sylvestre, now wife of William Hutchinson. My daughter Mary, wife of Edward
Benett, merchant. The children of Benett & Hutchinson. My cosin John
Cayne, the elder, of North Petherton, Som'. My wife's grandson, John
Norwood, of London. My wife's daughter Elisabeth Ireland, alias Norwood.
My sister Jane Bourne, late wife of Roger Bourne, of Wells, Somerset. My
brother deceased. My niece Mrs Elizabeth Bishop, wife of Thomas Bishop, of
Minehead. My niece Susan, widow of Mr John Cross, Master of Arts, deceased.
My niece Mrs Ellinor Carliel, widow of Francis Carliel, gent., dec'd . My
nephew Jasper Bourne, son of my nephew John Bourne, of Gothelney. My
nephews John Bourne, of Gothelney, & John Bourne, of Durleigh, Overseers.
My son John Benitt, Residuary Legatee & Exr.
Richard Bennett's male lineage died with his grandson, Richard
Bennett III. The hunt is on for a collateral representative through one
of his brothers. Edward's male progeny continued on in London, but I've
been unable to track them beyond his own grandsons, Thomas Bennett (1661-)
and Jasper Bennett (1664-). Some genealogists believe that Virginia
immigrant John Bennett (1624-1668) was Richard's nephew but proof is
lacking. Nevertheless, there are a number of male descendants living today,
but none have been found that have Y-DNA testing. I'm tracking these
lineages at http://ancestraldata.com/lineages/Bennett/.
All original portions ©
Michael Cooley, OrbitInternet.net -