The term “ancient planters” often refers to a group of individuals who migrated across the Atlantic Ocean to the Colony of Virginia with the promise of personal fortune to be made by expanding British territory into what is present day American mainland. Originally under the supervision of the Virginia Company of London established in 1606, many invested coin in exchange for shares of the company or ventured to the colony on the company’s behalf. However, the early years were not nearly as fruitful as the company hoped and, at the end of the administration of Sir Thomas Dale – the deputy governor of the Virginia colony – in 1616, funds to pay out dividends to investors weren’t available. Instead, the company utilized an alternative of land grants to repay investors who had ventured to Virginia, whether it be on the company’s coin or their own out-of-pocket expense. Often, the case was that investors received what was called a “first dividend” of 100 acres of land within the 100 square miles of territory that was deemed to be used for settlement, in lieu of monetary compensation for their investment into the company. Those who ventured across the Atlantic to Virginia after Gates’ administration were still granted land, but at a considerable reduction. Because it was determined that the first colonists had endured the brunt of the dangers involved with colonization, those that arrived after the fact only received 50 acres of land.
One of these later arrivals was John Lightfoot III. Sources disagree on his birthday, narrowed down somewhere between 1646 and 1648. In 1658, he and his brother Phillip were brought to the Virginia colony, supposedly with no formal learning beyond grammar school (this is speculated due primarily to the lack of educational facilities in Virginia at this time). Details are scarce about early family life, but it is determined that he married Anne Goodrich of Rappahanock County in 1681 and later moved to New Kent County where he settled for the rest of his life. The Lightfoots provided for a family of five children, born between the years of 1683 and 1696.
During this period, Lightfoot became the subject of substantial windfall from family inheritance. Between a dowry of suspected, considerable worth for his marriage (the rights to which he would later sell to his brother) and an inheritance left to him by his grandmother, Lightfoot seemed to have managed avoiding much of the dangers of the colonization. He was said to have inherited the estate of his father in 1687 as well. Records also indicate that he had been deeply involved in affairs of state and military and had attained the rank of Colonel within the Army of Virginia.
By 1701, only a few years before his death, Lightfoot had journeyed back to England as a member of the Colonial Council, returned to the Virginia as a tax collector, and later served as Commander in Chief to King and Queen County. He was also partly responsible for the recall of then-governor Nicholson, who had fallen out of favor with the colonists. Lightfoot later died in 1707 in New Kent County. His current place of burial is unknown.