Col. Joseph Bridger

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Joseph Bridger, I

Birthdate: (58)
Birthplace: Woodmancotte Manor, Dursely, Gloucester, England
Death: April 15, 1686 (58)
Smithfield, Isle of Wight County, Virginia
Place of Burial: Smithfield, Isle of Wight County, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph Samuel Bridger and Mary Bridger
Husband of Hester Bridger
Father of Esther Williamson; Capt. Joseph Bridger, Ll; Martha Godwin; Samuel Bridger; Col. William Bridger, Of "White Marsh" and 1 other
Brother of John Bridger; James Bridger; George Bridger; Martha Bridger; Mary Bridger and 1 other

Occupation: Councillor of State in Virginia to King Charles II, House of Burgesses, Commander of the Isle of Wight Militia, , Planter, Member of Burgess
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Col. Joseph Bridger

Joseph Bridger of Virginia

Joseph was brought to Virginia in 1652 by Colonel Nathaniel Bacon with whom he later served as a 'Councillor of State in Virginia to King Charles II '. He soon became one of the most prominent men in the Isle of Wight county, Virginia, carrying out major land deals involving many thousands of acres and building a seventeen roomed brick house, 'Whitemarsh', on his estate.

He was a member of the House of Burgesses from the Isle of Wight in the 1657-58 session and also in 1663.

He served during (another) Bacon’s rebellion in 1676 under the Royalist Governor Sir William Berkeley (1606-1677) of the Gloucester Berkeley family. This was the losing side and he was denounced as one of the 'wicked and pernicious councillors against the Commonality in these our cruel commotions'. However when King Charles sent over commissioners to report on Governor Berkeley’s rule, Joseph was described as a very resolute gentleman who after fleeing with Governor Berkeley was 'active and instrumental' in restoring order.

He was a member of the Governor’s Court in 1677 and was a witness to his will. In 1680 he was commissioned to raise men to protect the frontiers against Indians and commanded some of the troops.

Excavations at Whitemarsh have recently revealed a wine bottle seal bearing a strong resemblance to the Bridger coat of arms. Earlier his gravestone had been unearthed with a lengthy epitaph from which is abstracted the following:-

'Sacred To The Memory of

The Honorable Joseph Bridger, Esq., Councillor of

State in Virginia to King Charles ye 2nd

Dying April ye 15; A. D. 1686; Aged 58 years

Mournfully leaving his wife, three sons and four daughters

To Charles his councels did such honour bring

His own express fetched him to attend the King

--etc -------'.

Parker believes that Joseph was one of the Royalists in the Gloucestershire area who helped Charles's remarkable escape to France after the battle of Worcester but no evidence of this is apparent despite the very detailed accounts of the event.

He married the well connected Hester Pitt and their children were named Martha, Mary, Elizabeth, Hester, Samuel, William and Joseph with obvious echoes of their aunts and uncles back in Dursley.

In his will he makes a bequest to his mother Mary, still living in Dursley 36 years after her husband's death.

Source: Regional Historian, Issue 9, Summer 2002

He arrived in America in 1653 and was buried in the floor of the Old Brick Church (St. Luek's) in Smithfield, VA. In 2008 his remains were removed to the Smithsonian for study.

Served as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1657-58.

The History of St. Luke's Church

Venerable Historic St. Luke's, Mother Church of Warrasquoyacke Parish (later called Isle of Wight) was affectionately known as "Old Brick Church" long before it was given its present name in 1820. It is the oldest existing church of English foundation in America and the nation's only surviving Gothic building. It forms a unique bridge between the early civilization of our country and the rich culture of Medieval England. Its structure reflects the architectural and spiritual descendents of the great Gothic cathedrals of England. By tradition and recollection of the first Vestry Book, "Old Brick Church" is dated to 1632. It closely relates to the Tower Church at Jamestown, dated circa 1638/39. As was common at the time, it took four or five years to erect such a church; and the finishing of the interior fittings required an additional number of years, even in this parish, already numbering 522 persons in the year 1634.

Colonel Joseph Bridger of "White Marsh" long associated with "Old Brick Church", a man of significant wealth, and a member of the Council of State to Charles II for Virginia, is known to have settled in the parish at least as early as 1657.According to tradition, Colonel Bridger brought members of the Driver family from England to do "finish" work on the church.

Historic St. Luke's Church has the oldest Gothic architecture in America. Among the Gothic features are buttresses, stepped gables, brick-traceried windows, and the medieval tie-beam timber interior roof structure. The interior finishing lapsed several years, perhaps as many as twenty-five, before the temporary forms were replaced with the permanent ones by Colonel Bridger. In the meantime, new settlers brought knowledge of changing architecture in the Mother Country as evidenced in the nearby Jacobean mansion, "Bacon's Castle" (c. 1665).

The Jacobean finishing of the interior of Historic St. Luke's Church contains Tuscan columns formed from the trunk of a tree and turned balusters of the rood screen and railings. The workmanlike design and joinery of the interior architecture is exquisite. Colonel Bridger was given increasing acknowledgement for the important contributions he made in bringing the church to completion. His remains, relocated to the church in the 1890's, are in the church's chancel marked by a basalt ledger stone.

Charlotte Klamer Executive Director 14477 Benn's Church Blvd. Smithfield, Virginia 23430 Tel: (757) 357-3367 Fax: (757) 365-0543 email:

  On January 29, 2007 Colonel Joseph Bridger's, who died in 1686, 

bones were exhumed by Dr. Douglas Owsley and staff. After exhumation, The Rev. Gary Barker blessed remains and the team involved. The event was filmed by The History Channel. The bones were then sent off to Washington, D. C. After some careful analysis, the bones will be returned to Colonel Joseph Bridger's tomb and reburied here in the church on April 15, 2007. The findings will be in an exhibition called "Written in Bone: Life and Death in Colonial Chesapeake" at the Smithsonian Institution in 2008.

Joseph Bridger, Sr. of Gloucester, England was a Royalist, loyal to the king of England. When Cromwell became Lord Protector by 1653 many Royalist fled England- JosephBridger, Sr. was among them. He was about 25 years old and settled inIsle of Wight Co., Virginia. He eventually accquired about 12,000 acres of land and raised tobbacco and cattle. Joseph Bridger, Sr. served as a member of the House of Burgesses by 1657 and 1658 then again in 1663. Joseph, Sr. and his son Joseph, Jr. were on opposite sides during the Bacon's Rebellion. Joseph, Jr. sided with Nathaniel Bacon in favor of the small farmer. Joseph, Sr. sided with Governor William Berkeley in favor of the large land holders. Eventually the Governor had many followers of Bacon hanged. Joseph, Sr. was able to have his son pardoned. Because of this uprising much of Joseph, Sr.'s land was plundered and Joseph, Sr. and hisson never got along after that, Jr. was disinherited. Two changes in the spelling of the Bridges name occured, the first of which was soon after the Bacon Rebellion by Joseph, Jr. - perhaps as a result of the family fight. Joseph Bridger, Sr.died in 1686 and is buried ath the "Old Brick Church" in Smithfield, Virginia. This church still stands and is a somewhat famous church, Joseph Bridger, Sr. was instrimental in the building of this church. This information is from THE THOMASAND BRIDGES STORY by Edison Thomas.

Joseph was a Royalist and in 1655, he fled England to escape Cromwellian persecution. In a codicil to his will dated 10-18-1683, he disowned his son Joseph Jr. 'who I finde fly out with divers dissolute courses of life and has grown very disobedient to me.' In a further codicil to his will, he disowned all of Joseph's descendants. From ''

Joseph's first land transaction was 3-21-1666 with his father-in-law Colonel Robert Pitt and William Burgh. They patented 3000 acres of land on a branch of the Blackwater River. His portion of the land was claimed through his having transported 24 persons to the colony. The three patented another 7800 acres in Isle of Wight. The land along the Blackwater River was dark and fertile which was ideal for growing tobacco. Joseph built his plantation there on an 850 acre site. He used handmade bricks that were made on the plantation. He eventually obtained over 12,000 acres on which he raised cattle and tobacco. The Thomas and Bridges Story 1540-1840 by Edison H. Thomas

Buried in the Chancel of St Luke's Church, originally known as the "Old Brick Church" of Newport Parish, is the oldest existing Church of English foundation in this country and the nation's only surviving original Gothic building. The Church is dated as having been begun in 1632. It is located on route 10, about 4 miles south of Smithfield, VA. Colonel Bridger brought over members from the Driver family to do the finishing work inside of the Church. He was first buried on his farm 'Whitemarsh' and later his remains were moved into the Church and marked by a marble tombstone located at the chancel. 'Sacred to ye memory of the Honble Joseph Bridger Esq. Councelr of State of Virginia to King Charles ye 2nd. Dying April 15, A.D. 1686. Aged 58 years: Mournfully left His wife, 3 sons & 4 daughters.' From: Find A Grave # 5139145.

Joseph built his plantation house on an 850 acres site purchased from Captain Upton, using bricks made by hand. He eventually acquired over 12,000 acres. In 1664, he was a member of the Commission to adjust the boundary line between the states of Virginia and Maryland. Two years later, he was adjutant general of the Virginia forces as well as a member of the general assembly. When the Indian war started in 1675, he assumed command of the militia from Isle of Wight.

His relationship to his son Joseph Jr fell apart during the Bacon Rebellion. Joseph had allegiance to King Charles II. His son Joseph Jr. was on the side of Bacon. At the end of the rebellion, Joseph Jr was condemned to death for being a leader of Bacon's Rebellion. His father was able to get him pardoned and Joseph Jr was allowed to go free. Joseph Sr. never forgave his son and disinherited him in his will. From: The Thomas and Bridgers Story 1540-1840 by Edison H Thomas.

Joseph, probably one of the wealthiest and most influential men of this time, died April 15, 1686. He left a very large amount of personal property and approximately 12,000 acres of land in Isle of Wight county. In addition, he also owned land in Surry and James City counties of Virginia and considerable acreage in the state of Maryland.

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Col. Joseph Bridger's Timeline

April 28, 1627
Dursely, Gloucester, England
Age 25
Isle Of Wight, , Virginia, USA
Age 30
Isle of Wight County, Virginia
Age 32
Nansemond, Virginia
Age 37
Isle of Wight, Isle of Wight County, Virginia, United States
Age 40
Isle of Wight County, Virginia
Age 42
Isle of Wight County, Virginia
April 15, 1686
Age 58
Smithfield, Isle of Wight County, Virginia
April 1686
Age 58
Smithfield, Isle of Wight County, Virginia, United States