Richard Bennett, Colonial Governor of Virginia

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Major General Richard Bennett

Birthdate: (65)
Birthplace: Wiveliscombe, Somerset, England
Death: April 12, 1675 (65)
Nanesmond, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Bennett, of Wiveliscombe and Anstie Bennett
Husband of Mary Ann Utie; Mary Ann Longworth Utte and Mary Ann Bennett
Father of Anne Bennett; Anne Bland; Richard Bennett, Jr. and Elizabeth Scarbrough (Bennett)
Brother of Elizabeth Norsworthy; Robert Bennett; Thomas Bennett, Jr.; William Bennett; Elizabeth Bennett and 2 others

Occupation: Governor of Virginia, Apr 1652-Mar 1655
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Richard Bennett, Colonial Governor of Virginia

Governor Richard Bennett NEVER MARRIED ANN BARHAM. That was Richard "Not the Governor" Bennett. Yes there were two Richard Bennetts, yes they both had fathers named Thomas and sons named Richard Jr. Richard Bennett (6 August 1609 – 12 April 1675) was an English Governor of the Colony of Virginia.

Born in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, Bennett served as governor from 30 April 1652, until 2 March 1655.[1][2] His uncle, Edward Bennett, was a wealthy merchant from London and one of the few Puritan members of the Virginia Company, who had travelled to Virginia Colony in 1621 and settled in Warrascoyack, renamed Isle of Wight County in 1637. Richard Bennett followed his uncle there as a representative of his business interests, and quickly rose to prominence, serving in the House of Burgesses in 1629 and 1631[3] and becoming a leader of the small Puritan community south of the James River, taking them from Warrasquyoake to Nansemond beginning in 1635. He was a member of the Governor Francis Wyatt's Council in 1639-42. In 1648, he fled to Anne Arundel, Maryland.[4]

Governor William Berkeley had been sympathetic to the Crown during the Civil War, but on 12 March 1652, he surrendered to representatives of the Commonwealth, and Bennett, then back in Virginia, was unanimously elected by the House of Burgesses on 30 April. Though little is known about his time as governor, it is believed that he was popular with the colonists.[3] While Governor of Virginia, he also spent much time directing affairs in Maryland, negotiating with the Susquehannock tribe and signing a treaty with them on 5 July 1652, whereby they ceded their claims to "all the land lying from the Patuxent River unto Palmer's Island on the western side of the bay of Chesapeake, and from Choptank River to the northeast branch which lies to the northward of Elk River on the eastern side of the bay." (Some of this area continued to be claimed by the Nanticoke Indian Tribe, however.) He helped ensure Puritan control over the colony of Maryland, then on 30 March 1655, voluntarily abandoned his office and left for England to see Cromwell.[5]

On 30 November 1657, Bennett, having returned to the colonies, signed the treaty with Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, which recognised the latter's claim to Maryland.[2] He returned to the governor's Council, and also became a Major-General, leading forces against a marauding Dutch fleet of four vessels committing depredations at Hampton Roads in 1667.[6]

In 1672, George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement, visited the Virginia Puritans in Nansemond and succeeded in converting most of them to his faith, including Bennett.[7] Family

Richard Bennett is thought to be a son of Thomas Bennett (1570–1616) and Antsie Tomson of Wiveliscombe. In 1666, Secretary Thomas Ludwell wrote to Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington that Richard Bennett seemed to be of the same family, sharing the same coat of arms (also shared by the Bennetts of North Bavant, Wiltshire).[8] By 1642, Richard Bennett married Mary Ann Longworth (widow of John Utie, Jr.[9]); their children were:

  • Richard Bennett Jr., married Henrietta Maria Neale, daughter of James Neale of Maryland; drowned at sea 1676
  • Anna Bennett (died November 1687) first married Theodorick Bland of Westover and had three sons: the original surveyor of both Alexandria and Williamsburg Theodorick Bland, Richard Bland (who had many notable descendants), and John Bland, who was the great-grandfather of Chancellor Theodorick Bland of Maryland.[10] Her second marriage was to Col. St. Leger Codd, and they had one son, also named St. Leger Codd.[10]
  • Elizabeth Bennett, married Col. Charles Scarborough of Accomac County, the son of Edmund Scarborough[11]

Bennett's descendants include Richard Bland II,[12] John Randolph of Roanoke[13] Henry Lee III,[13]Robert E. Lee,[13] and Roger Atkinson Pryor.[12] See also

Colony of Virginia
Governor's Palace
List of colonial governors of Virginia
History of Virginia
Bennett's Adventure


  1. Lossing, Benson John (1901). Harper's Encyclopædia of United States History from 458 A.D. to 1902. Harper & Brothers. pp. 544.
  2. a b Tyler, Lyon Gardiner (1915). Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. pp. 47.
  3. a b Warfield, Joshua Dorsey (1905). The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland: A Genealogical and Biographical Review from wills, deeds and church records. Kohn & Pollock. pp. 41.
  4. Boddie, 17th Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia p. 54
  5. Boddie, p. 62-73
  6. Boddie, p. 75
  7. Boddie, p. 76, 80
  8. Boddie, p.266-267.
  9. Boddie, Colonial Surrey, p. 41
  10. a b Hunter, Joseph (1895) "Bland" in Clay, John W. Familiae Minorum Gentium II London: The Harleian Society pp. 421–427
  11. Wise, Jennings Cropper (1911). Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, or The Eastern Shore of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, p. 126. Richmond: The Bell Book and Stationery Co.
  12. a b Sons of the American Revolution (1894) "Roll of Members" Yearbook The Republic Press p. 198
  13. a b c Boddie, John Bennett (1973). Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia. Genealogical Publishing Company. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0-8063-0559-2.

On November 21, 1621, Edward Bennett, a rich merchant of London, was granted a patent for a plantation upon the condition of settling two hundred emigrants. Associated with him in that patent were his brother, Robert Bennett, and his nephew, Richard Bennett, Thomas Ayres, Thomas Wiseman and Richard Wiseman; and in February, 1622, the "Sea Flower" arrived with one hundred and twenty settlers, under command of Captain Ralph Hamor, one of the Council. Among them were Rev. William Bennett and George Harrison, kinsmen of Edward Bennett. Their place of settlement was called Warrosquoyacke, or sometimes "Edward Bennett's Plantation," and was located at the place on James River known as the "Rocks," the estate of the late Dr. John W. Lawson, who for many years represented this county in the General Assembly of the State, the Second Congressional District in Congress, and this county in the late Constitutional Convention.

Richard Bennett was elected Governor of the VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLEY 30 March 1652 and was re-elected three successive terms. He was then sent as Commissioner to England by the House of Burgesses. Returning to Virginia in 1658 he was re-elected to the Counsel each year until his death. From 1662 he was Major General of the Virginia Forces. His descendents include General ROBERT E. LEE.


  2. Willey, Core, Bennett and Other Ancestors by Leroy Ellis Willie & Ted D. Jones
  3. American Historical Review, XXVII, pp. 505-508

"The Genealogists Reference Journal," Vol. 1, Part 1, June 1935, extracted from a record in the Public Record Office, London HCA 13.71 1656-7 BENNETT, RICHARD, ESQ. OF VA., NOW IN LONDON, AGED 49, BORN AT WILSCOMBE, SOMERSET, ENGLAND."

Governor of Virginia --

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Richard Bennett, Colonial Governor of Virginia's Timeline

August 6, 1609
Wiveliscombe, Somerset, England
Age 30
Westover, Charles City, Virginia, USA
Age 30
Charles City, Virginia, United States
June 1, 1644
Age 34
Upper Parish, Isle of Wight County, Virginia Colony
Age 35
Accomack, Virginia
April 12, 1675
Age 65
Nanesmond, Virginia, United States
April 12, 1675
Age 65
February 19, 1998
Age 65