Popular Religions In Colonial Virginia

Religion was an important part of living in a colony and shaped how settlers led their lives on a day-to-day basis. It was something that was passed on from their time in Great Britain.


Christianity was the primary religion in Colonial Virginia, and the emphasis was towards the Anglican Sect. This was the churn settlers had to follow as it was back home in Great Britain.

It was in 1624 when the word came down to legalize the importance of going to church and making sure it was maintained. The settlers had to make sure they were paying tax, and it was directed towards the upkeep of the church. This included those who were not from the sect.

Over time, a lot of attention was moved towards separating church and state.

The settlers wanted to maintain power over the church to make sure it was not centralized and controlling funds. They were able to do this with legal changes over time. In Corpus Christi Deo, Amen.

Protestant Sect

Colonial Virginia was not reserved to one sect, and it was home to many Protestants at the time.

It took over a hundred years for the sect to gain independence and make sure it was treated fairly. There was a political battle at the time to make sure it was turned into reality.

Native Americans and Africans

While the settlers were shaping religion in the land and Christianity remained the most popular, there were other religions on hand too. The Native Americans believed in their religious views and felt strongly about upholding them even as the settlers came to their land.

The same applied to the slaves that were being brought in from various African nations.

They were not looking to convert to Christianity and wanted to follow the religious practices they had followed back home in Africa.

It was around the 18th century when a lot of these individuals were converted to Christians. A lot of effort was made to ensure religious freedom was offered during this time, but most stated it was superficial and not applied. The settlers were still dismissive of those religions.

As the religions settled into place and the area developed, it became apparent the division between church and state was present. Most families were keeping their religious views private in the colony. Slaves felt it was appropriate to draw towards Christianity and they did in droves.

This led to how the colony shaped for the rest of the century.

Virginia: The State Of Many Nicknames

Depending on the topic you’re talking about or what time in history, there are many different nicknames that you might hear the state of Virginia go by. Presidential historians, of course, recognize Virginia as the State of Presidents since 9 different U.S. Presidents have all hailed from this state. Football fans might call it a Cavalier state or a Hokie state, but the truth is that the older nicknames from the state’s days as an actual English colony are far more historically interesting and impressive.

Several Different Names
The colony of Virginia went by several different nicknames or “official” names in the beginning. While most were simply a variation of the basic state name, there are some others that went a different direction based on the influences of history at that time.

In fact, there were four main names that the colony went by in the 1500’s and 1600’s prior to the century that led up to the American Revolution. “The Virginia Colony” was one of the names, giving a full reminder of the type of territory Virginia was with an emphasis on a lack of independence. Likewise “The Province of Virginia” basically serves the same territorial naming.

However, there were a couple other names that definitely stretch it out a little bit more such as:
– His Majesty’s Most Ancient Colloney (and yes that is the correct spelling that was used at the time)
– The Dominion & Colony of Virginia

These were certainly more formal names that push a lot more intent of formality across, but one that stuck out as a nickname above the rest came in the form of “Old Dominion.”

Old Dominion
The nickname for the colony of Virginia of “Old Dominion” actually was partially from a formal title that was given as a form of appreciation. During the English Civil War the colony of Virginia was stalwart in its position as being loyal, and because of their loyalty to the challenged monarchy, Charles II granted the colony of Virginia a title. That title, as you probably guessed, was “Old Dominion.”

Even today Virginia’s official nickname is the “Old Dominion State,” there is a major university named Old Dominion, and the University of Virginia’s mascot is a Cavalier – or a “Charles Supporter.” In other words, the very identity that resulted in the then colony and now state getting the title that would become their official nickname.

While Virginia is known by many nicknames, it’s hard to argue with Old Dominion as being the primary one of note.

Virginia Is A Commonwealths State

There are 4 of the states in the U.S. that consider themselves Commonwealths. The 4 states include Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia (not Kansas City, Missouri). The designation Commonwealth has no constitutional impact but rather it emphasizes that these 4 states have a government that is based on a common consent of its residents.

This is in opposition to the Commonwealth that was legitimized by their previous Royal Colony status. This previous status came from the King of England. The word Commonwealth is an English term that signifies the common “welfare” or “wealth” of the public. Today, we find that most people do not perceive a distinction between Commonwealth or state.

A state, on the other hand, is a political association that has a specific dominion over a certain geographic area. This dominion will include a variety of institutions that have the authority to make rules and laws to govern the people of that geographic area. The status of a state may often depend on its being acknowledged by a group of other states.

The Commonwealth of Virginia goes back all the way to its independence from England. On June 29, 1776, Virginia established its first constitution and the new name the Commonwealth of Virginia. The origin of this Constitution and Commonwealth were mainly attributed to the British Parliaments continual effort to apply burdensome taxes following the Indian in French war.

Virginia’s House of Burgesses opposed this taxation without representation. Two of the colonists who spearheaded this opposition was Richard Henry Lee and Patrick Henry. They along with other Virginians started to coordinate opposition actions in 1773. They were joined by other colonies in this opposition against taxes. The following year they sent a team of delegates to the Continental Congress but the results were nonproductive.

The Royal Governor dissolved the House Burgesses in 1774 but the revolutionary leaders continued using a form of government by means of the Virginia Conventions. A convention on May 15, 1776, made a declaration of Virginia’s independence from England. They then adopted Virginia’s declaration of rights from George Mason and this also included a new constitution.

After the House of Burgesses was dissolved a new House of Delegates was formed. The newly formed House of Delegates worked together with the Governors Council to make the Virginian General Assembly. This combination of government was founded in 1619 and is considered to be the oldest legislature in all of the Western Hemisphere.

Virginia: Home of More Presidents Than Any Other State

Virginia has been the home state to more U.S. Presidents than any other with a total of 9 holders of the highest executive office all coming from this Southern state. This shouldn’t necessarily be surprising as Virginia was one of the largest and most important of the original 13 colonies. However, not all the Presidents are equal in fame and renown. Let’s take a look at the most famous of the Virginia Presidents.

George Washington
It’s hard to get more famous than the first President of the United States. General George Washington not only led the colonies to victory, but he served two terms as the first President and willingly stepped down after two terms to start the important tradition of the peaceful transition of power. He is considered the father of the nation and one of the truly great Founding Fathers.

Thomas Jefferson
Many of the early Presidents hailed from Virginia and Thomas Jefferson is one of the most famous. Known as one of the major Founding Fathers he presided over the Louisiana Purchase to expand west and entailed many early laws and traditions that would become a crucial part of the nation’s history and governing tradition.

James Madison
The 4th President of the United States, Madison believed in many of the policies that Jefferson enacted and continued to push the U.S. forward. Not only did he push these policies and oversee the founding of a second national bank, but he kept the helm as the nation went to war with Britain again in what would become known as the War of 1812.

James Monroe
The last of the Founding Father Presidents, Monroe helped encourage early infrastructure growth through the collection of limited tolls (national taxation was not a viable tool back then). He oversaw the passage of the Missouri Compromise as well as weathered the young nation through its first economic depression, due in large part to wars in Europe.

Woodrow Wilson
The last of the Virginia Presidents, Wilson took the helm of the nation in the beginning of the 20th century and led the United States as they would eventually become involved in World War I. While he was a champion of the League of Nations, he wouldn’t be able to rally up the necessary support to make it pass.

3 Other Virginia Born Presidents

  • William Henry Harrison (Shortest Presidential term as he died after 30 days)
  • John Tyler
  • Zachary Taylor

Trade And Exports In Colonial Virginia

Colonial Virginia was an important part of Great Britain’s economic setup.

It was used as a way to invest money into new land and acquire resources that would be employed in the colony and back home in Great Britain. It was a win-win for the parties involved and a significant investment for the monarch at the time.

Colonial Virginia didn’t limit itself when it came to trade and exports as they spread their wings making sure all opportunities were managed and assessed including intellectual property.

Southern Colony

Colonial Virginia was located in the South making it unique compared to some of the other locations.

It had access to different resources that were worth investing into and brought back great returns. The colonies in the South included Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.


As mentioned, the resources in this Southern colony were unique to it making the exports a dominant economic driver.

These resources included:

1) Cotton
2) Lumber
3) Tobacco
4) Indigo (Dye)
5) Farm Products
6) Fur
7) Rice

It was these resources that were used as the heart of the exports and remained in great demand. They were able to bring in a lot of funds with the help of these resources.


It is important to remember, the driving force to accumulate and manage these resources were done on the slave plantations.

At the time, the colonies were working with slaves to drive up production and make more with increasing demand. It was a business decision at the time, and they were able to milk it.

Features of The South

What made exports from this region exquisite and unique?

It had to do with the lay of the land as that was what made it easier to grow resources such as rice, cotton, and lumber. They had access to fertile soil that was easier to manage and promoted growth. The weather was excellent, and that didn’t harm their exports either.

In general, Virginia was described as having good weather, fertile soil, swamps, long rivers, and hilly plains.

Route for Exports

Where were the exports going?

There was a “triangle” when it came to the trades, and all parties were receiving something out of the exchange.

The route included Africa, North America, and Europe.

Africa received textiles and goods, North America received slaves, and Europe received selected resources (sugar, tobacco). It was easy for all parties to benefit except for the slaves.

The Virginia Company And The Royal Colony Of Virginia

While the United States may be only a bit more than 200 years old, there’s still a lot of history shoved into that small time span. This is especially true of the north eastern coast. That’s the area where the United States was born, so you’d better believe it has some solid history!

The state of Virginia started its life as the colony of Virginia. But not every colony was under the crown when it first started, and Virginia is one of those colonies.

The Birth of the Colony of Virginia

The Virginia Colony was founded by the Virginia Company, but it wasn’t the only colony founded. The Virginia Company also established Jamestown and Popham Colony. These colonies were started for profit, with the settlers growing what they could in order to trade.

Unfortunately, Popham Colony failed. There was famine and disease, not to mention the Powhatan tribe who rightfully owned the land. Jamestown very nearly failed, though was saved by the last minute arrival of more settlers and supplies. While the Virginia Colony was still sustaining itself thanks to the profitability of tobacco, King James 1 stripped the Virginia Company of their charter. He cited the egregious failure of the other two colonies as the reason, and it’s hard to argue.

Under Control of the Crown

In the year 1624 the Virginia Colony became what was known as a crown colony. Also referred to as a royal colony, this was a colony that was under administration by the crown rather than whatever local system of government the original founders had instituted.

In the case of Virginia, the crown allowed the then governorship to continue their duties. The House of Burgesses took up governorship of Virginia in 1619 and maintained those duties all the way to the American Revolution. Jamestown remained the capital all the way up until 1699. At that point, the capital was switched to Williamsburg. In modern times, the state of Virginia boasts the city of Richmond as its capital.

As you can see, Virginia has a huge amount of history. It’s been under multiple forms of government and leadership, and has managed to survive. Even through the early times when disease was rampant and it was difficult to get crops to grow, Virginia managed to survive and thrive. So come see beautiful Virginia for yourself, and take some time to experience history as it exists around you.

Who Was Sir Thomas Dale In History?

Sir Thomas Dale was an individual that lived hundreds of years ago. He was an English naval commander, as well as a deputy governor for the Virginia colony. His role as deputy governor began in 1611. He subsequently filled that position again from 1614 to 1616. He is remembered for many things including having a substantial amount of personal energy, helping him to establish his administration in Virginia. He was able to benefit the colony in many ways, but was often criticized for what is referred to as high handedness. He is also known for marrying the legendary Pocahontas.

A Little Bit About His Personal Life

Although little is known about the early life of Sir Thomas Dale, it is likely he originated from Surrey (not Tampa Bay) England. He was married to a woman by the name of Elizabeth Throckmorton, though it is not known if they actually had children together. What is known about his life begins in 1588. His military service was performed in what is now modern Belgium and the Netherlands. He became friendly with people of authority, and by 1599 the Earl of Essex recruited him into the army of England. Subsequently, he was knighted, giving him the name Sir Thomas Dale of Surrey. This was performed in 1606 by King James. He was serving in the Low Countries and later developed what was called the Virginia Colony.

What Was The Virginia Colony?

After arriving in Jamestown, he quickly realizes that there were unhealthy conditions that needed to be improved. Meeting with the Jamestown counsel, he decided to make changes, serving as governor for a little over three months. Later on, he served in this capacity for two more years and was the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the Virginia area. He helped develop the first codes of law, referred to as Dale’s Codes, and instructed people to do agriculture on smaller plots in order to increase their yield.

In 1616, he sailed back to England, he brought his wife Pocahontas with him. Also accompanying them was their one-year-old son, and he introduced his wife to Queen Anne as Rebecca. Before returning, Rebecca died on March 21 of 1617. He was later appointed squadron commander of six ships. He laid siege on a Dutch fleet in Jacatra and later died after contracting a sickness while traveling through swamps. He died in August 1619 in Masulipatnam in India, leaving a substantial legacy behind.

Anne Burras And The History Of Virginia

The early settlers in Jamestown were all male until 2 Females arrived in 1608 – Mrs. Forest and Anne Burras. There are two divergent stories regarding Mrs. Forest as to whether she arrived to join her husband Thomas Forest, a gentleman, or whether he accompanied her on her journey. What is clear is that she was sickly and did not stay long in Virginia.

Anne Burras, on the other hand, was only 14 years old at the time, the personal maid of Mrs. Forrest and the first unmarried woman to arrive in the colonies. Shortly after her arrival (just 2 months later), she married John Leydon (sometimes spelled Laydon). This was another first for Virginia as it was most likely the only Christian wedding that was performed in the colonies at the time.

The couple moved to Point Comfort, then an outpost of Jamestown and Anne bore 4 children, the first of which was a girl named Virginia. Life was not easy in the colonies and during what was then referred to as the starving time, their main food source was rats, snakes and their horses and dogs in Jamestown.

However, life was slightly more comfortable in Point Comfort due to an abundance of lobsters and hogs. Out of the 470 male and 20 female settlers that arrived in Jamestown, only 60 were to survive after their supply of hogs was purposely destroyed and hunting became problematic due to the Native Indian population.

Anne, John and their 4 children all survived these early days and later moved to Elizabeth City (now called Newport News). John was given 200 acres of land which he further patented with the help of Anne’s brother, Anthony Burrows, to include an additional 1250 acres in 1936. While little else is known about Anne and her family, they did live out their lives in Virginia.

Her most significant contribution to the history of Virginia and the early colonies is that she was the first unmarried women to arrive in the New World. This later resulted in the realization of the importance of women in the colonies. It was determined that the men and the settlements were more likely to survive and thrive if women were present to provide stability and permanence through setting up homes.

These homes were to become an important factor in which early settlements were to survive and which were to fail in later years.

What Was the Great Awakening?

The Great Awakening was time of widespread spiritual renewal that swept through the American Colonies during the early 1700s. This period of time was characterized by a large abandonment of the established churches by a good portion of the Christian community who grew weary of the sense of complacency in the church. These would adopt another form of worship characterized by emotional or “fervent” prayer.

It began with great evangelists and orators in Europe like the Wesley brothers or George Whitefield but it soon spread through to the colonies of New England. The new wave of spiritual renewal ushered in a wave of spiritualism that was strikingly different from the somber piety of the Puritan Church that was the accepted norm before the 1700s.

What caused the Great Awakening?

Throughout the 17th century Europe had seen some of the most devastating religious conflict since the Spanish Inquisition, a criminal defense. It came all culminated in the Glorious Revolution in 1688, where the Church of England was established as the ruling church in England. After this point any other form of worship was suppressed.

Rather than attain a sense of spiritual union, the result of this was a sense of complacency in which the church was nothing more than a social duty where all meaning was lost in a series of dry traditions and practices. It was only after this had continued for almost 60 years did the people feel the need for a widespread spiritual awakening.

What were the most significant effects of the Great Awakening?

The biggest effect that the Great Awakening had in the American Colonies was pulling them together in preparation for the upcoming war of independence. The important precedent set by the Great Awakening was that if your churches or authorities re not living up to their responsibilities they should be challenged and abandoned.

Through the Awakening the American Colonies came to understand the power to change things rested in their hands alone. This was soon applied to the business of governing. It was here the idea that the freedom and rights to rule were better kept close at hand rather than coming from a monarch or bishop across the sea.

Within a few short generations, the colonists had agreed that they did not share the same religious or political ideals with their government back in England. In many ways, the Great Awakening made it possible for the American Revolution.

Looking At The Puritans: Who Were They?

Many students in the United States hear about Puritans early on in history or social studies class, but how much do you really know about this fascinating and very important group of early settlers. Originally the Puritans were not intended to be colonists for England in a new land, but their reasons for leaving were religious in nature and go into their disagreement with the Church of England.

Demanded Further Reformation
While The Reformation is often seen as the beginning of Lutheranism in particular, and Protestantism in general, it is only the beginning of the story. England was still a Catholic nation for the most part when the King wanted to be allowed to divorce. Since that wasn’t okay with the Catholic Church the Church of England formed, allowing him the right to divorce and also making some nominal changes compared to the Catholic Church.

The Puritans were a group of Protestants in the 1500’s and 1600’s who believed the Church of England had not gone far enough and to be righteous still needed to “purify” themselves further of practices and traditions that came from the Catholic church. This is where the name “Puritans” came from.

Freedom Of Religion
While Puritanism existed in several different factions in England, the splintering and infighting between various sects caused problems and prevented them from being more influential. In addition, they often found themselves being disapproved of by both the monarchy as well as by the Church of England. Those twin forces were seen by many as too much to deal with and this lead to the well-known off-shoot that decided to migrate to the New World to form new colonies where they could practice their faith freely.

The Great Migration
The heavy movement happened in the 1630’s and 1640’s. These groups of Puritans founded several colonies including the Massachusetts Bay Colony and would found the backbone for English settlement of the colonies in the future. Because of their strong early communities, the colonies would be strongly affected by the beliefs, culture, and intellectual practices of the early Puritans who had already settled in.

These were the same colonies that would meet Squanto and be part of the early feasts that would become the basis for celebrating Thanksgiving.

While the Puritan faith wouldn’t remain, its influence would still be a presence in thought, philosophy, and the history of the colonies that would follow. Their contribution to the early history of the colonies is undeniable.