Just Who Was Governor Thomas Culpepper?

The history of the state of Virginia goes back well before the American Revolution as Virginia has been one of the largest and most important of the early colonies (besides New York and Staten Island). While many people think about U.S. Presidents when Virginia is mentioned (after all it is the home of 9 previous Presidents) to understand the history of Virginia you need to look further back to colonial times and figures like Governor Thomas Culpepper.

Born in 1635 and living until 1689, the 2nd Baron Culpeper of Thoresway, a title Thomas was granted, his name was technically spelled Colepeper but by the time he would come to the New World he would go by the altered name of Culpeper.

The New World Seeds
Charles the II of England would grant Thomas’s father ranks that would not only put the family in charge of many lands in England that often took up the majority of their time and attention, but also have them begin to look at the colony of Virginia.

In fact, Thomas Culpepper, even as he served as the administrator for the Isle of Wight, was given the title and responsibility of the governor of Virginia starting in July 1677. That being said, he was not present at the time and governed the colony in absence, sending information or decrees from his place in England.

Governor Culpepper attempted this until 1679 when King Charles II force him to sail to Virginia as the early grumblings took place from having the territorial governor so far away. While there he was granted a wide array of powers from the king and worked to limit the power of the local General Assembly, authorize a series of new taxes on exports, and remind the ruling class there firmly of their relationship with England, emphasis on being subordinate to them.

Culpepper left Virginia to return to his lands while still governor, and it became clear he was more interested in maintaining his holdings than governing in the colonies. This would help contribute to frustrations that would lead to riots in 1682 (forcing his return). Embezzlement of major amounts from the Colonial fund was the last straw and by 1683 with such an important colony in economic and political turmoil, he was replaced by the king.

Although not one of the greats of Virginia’s history, Culpeper was a governor for nearly a decade during colonial times and both Culpeper County and that county’s main town of Culpeper are named in honor of him.