Richard Bennett (governor)

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Richard Bennett
Governor of the Virginia Colony
In office
30 April 1652-31 March 1655
Preceded bySir William Berkeley
Succeeded byEdward Digges
Member of the Virginia Governor's Council
In office
Member of the House of Burgesses for Warrosquyoake
In office
Preceded byEdward Bennett
Succeeded byJohn Atkins
Personal details
BornAugust 1609
Wiveliscombe, Taunton Deane Borough, Somersetshire, England
Diedc. 1675
Bennett's Choice plantation, Virginia Colony, British America
SpouseMary Ann Utie
ChildrenRichard, Anna Bennett Bland Codd, Elizabeth Scarborough
Parent(s)Thomas Bennett, Anslie Tomson
ProfessionGovernor, military officer, planter

Richard Bennett (1608 – 12 April 1675) was an English planter and Governor of the Colony of Virginia, serving 1652–1655. He had first come to the Virginia colony in 1629 to represent his merchant uncle Edward Bennett's business, managing his plantation known as Bennett's Welcome in Warrascoyack (later known as Isle of Wight County).[1] Two decades later, Bennett immigrated to the Maryland colony with his family, and settled on the Severn River in Anne Arundel County.[2]

Bennett also acquired his own land patents, ultimately owning and developing thousands of acres in Virginia and Maryland. Initially, he settled with other Puritans in Nansemond. There he and others later converted to become Quakers under the influence of George Fox. In 1665 he acquired 2500 acres at what is known as Bennett's Adventure, developing a plantation on Wicomico Creek in Wicomico County, Maryland.

Early and family life[edit]

Coat of Arms of Richard Bennett

Born in Wiveliscombe, Somerset in 1608 and christened 6 August 1609,[3] Bennett served as governor from 30 April 1652, until some time in March, 1655 (2 March 1655)[4] or 31 March.[5][6] His uncle, Edward Bennett, was a wealthy merchant from London and one of the few Puritan members of the Virginia Company. He received a land patent in 1621 and soon sent his five nephews (including this man) across the Atlantic Ocean. Richard Bennett developed a plantation in Warrascoyack. He was helped by his brothers Robert, who managed it until his death either during the Massacre of 1622[7] or 1624. In any event Richard, who took over management but died himself in 1626. Edward Bennett went out to the colony himself and won election to represent his plantation and neighbors in the House of Burgesses in 1628, but returned to England the following year.


Richard Bennett sailed to Virginia to represent his uncle's business interests, and quickly rose to prominence, including succeeding him in the House of Burgesses. He represented Wariscoyacque in the House of Burgesses in 1629.[8][9] Bennett became leader of the small Puritan community south of the James River, taking them from Warrasquyoake to the drainage of the Nansemond River beginning in 1635. Warrasquyoake was renamed as Isle of Wight County in 1637 and Nansemond County was formally split from Isle of Wight county in 1646.

{{cn span |text=Governor Francis Wyatt with the consent of the Crown in London appointed Bennett as a member of the Governor's Council in 1639–42, and he would intermittently serve in what was the colony's upper house (and highest court) for the rest of his life, albeit with interruptions during an unstable era. In 1646, near the beginning of the English Civil War, Puritans from Nansemond formed part of the force sent by Virginia Governor William Berkeley to restore order in Maryland after the "Plundering Time".[citation needed]

In 1648, under political and religious pressure during the English Civil War, and upon the invitation of new Maryland governor William Stone of Hungers Creek, Bennett became one of the leaders of the Virginia Puritans who received a grant from Lord Baltimore and established a settlement on the Severn River in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.[10][11] There, Bennett received at least one land grant of 250 acres on the banks of the Severn River near the Broadneck Peninsula known as the Towne Neck or later Greenberry Point, and returned to Virginia for settlers on what they called "Providence".[12][2] He subsequently received two large grants of 1150 and 1250 acres called Upper Bennett and Lower Bennett on the Clifts of Patuxent upon which he settled associates from Nansemond. From 1651 until 1657-8, Bennett held a parliamentary commission for Virginia, during which time (in 1655 as discussed below) he returned to England to oppose Lord Baltimore's claim to Maryland.>[2]

Meanwhile, Virginia Governor William Berkeley, who had been appointed in 1641, was sympathetic to the Crown during the English Civil War. Sir William Berkeley even fought for the deposed King Charles before returning to Virginia to quell raids by Native Americans on the relatively young colony. But on 12 March 1652, in a negotiation partly arranged by Bennett, Berkeley surrendered to representatives of Cromwell's Commonwealth government when they arrived in Virginia, and the colony's secretary Mathew Kemp became Virginia's acting governor.

The Virginia House of Burgesses then unanimously elected Bennett, who had returned to Virginia, as that colony's governor on 30 April 1652. Much of Bennett's time as governor involved negotiations both on behalf of the two colonies with officials in England, and with Native Americans. He negotiated with the Susquehannock tribe (which spoke an Iroquoian language) and signed a treaty with them on 5 July 1652. Under this, 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 the 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, which was an Algonquian-speaking tribe, with a different culture.)[13]

On 30 March 1655, Bennett voluntarily abandoned his Virginia office (the House of Burgesses electing fellow planter Edward Digges governor in his stead), and sailed for England to see Oliver Cromwell.[13]

On 30 November 1657, Bennett, having returned to the colonies, signed the treaty with Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, which recognized the latter's claim to Maryland.[6] Bennett again attended the Governor's Council in Virginia, and also was commissioned as a major-general in that colony's militia.

In 1665 Bennett (or possibly his son of the same name who represented Baltimore County in Maryland's Assembly)>[2] patented 2500 acres on the north bank of Wicomico Creek, in what is now Wicomico County, Maryland. The plantation became known as Bennett's Adventure.

In 1667 Bennett led English colonial forces against a four vessel Dutch fleet maurauding through the Hampton Roads area.[14]

In 1672, George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement, visited Virginia Puritans in Nansemond county. He converted most of them to his faith, including Bennett.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Richard Bennett is thought to be a son of Thomas Bennett (1570–1616) and Antsie Tomson of Wiveliscombe, Somerset.[citation needed] 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). Biographer John Boddie, however, discounted the accuracy of the report.[16]

By 1642, Richard Bennett married Mrs. Mary Ann Utie, the widow of councillor John Utie Sr.[17] (There is no documentary evidence for Mary Ann's maiden name, but she had three sons by her first husband: John Utie Jr. (1620-1642), Capt. Nathaniel Utie (d. 1675) and George Utie (d.1678), and she died slightly before him[18] Their children, all born in the 1640s, were:

  • Richard Bennett Jr. (drowned on his Maryland property in May 1667), who married Henrietta Maria Neale, daughter of James Neale and his wife of Maryland; and who bore daughter Susannah Bennett Darnall Lowe (1666-1714) as well as Richard Bennett III (1667-1749); his widow remarried Philemon Lloyd after this man's death.
  • Anna Bennett (died November 1687 in Cecil County, Maryland), first married Virginia merchant and speaker of the House of Burgesses Theodorick Bland of Westover in 1660[19] and had three sons: Theodorick Bland, Richard Bland (who had many notable descendants), and John Bland, great-grandfather of Chancellor Theodorick Bland of Maryland.[20] Her second marriage was to immigrant, burgess and Col. St. Leger Codd(1680-1732), and they had one son, also named St. Leger Codd (1680-1732).[20]
  • Elizabeth Bennett (died 1719), who became the third wife of Col. Charles Scarborough of Accomac County, the son of councilor Edmund Scarborough (1617-1671) and his wife, the former Mary Litleton,[21] and who bore at least eight children, of whom six survived her.

Death and legacy[edit]

Bennett probably died on his Virginia plantation, although many descendants would also live in Maryland, including his grandson Richard Bennett III. He is considered one of the founders of Annapolis, which later became that colony's capital. The Wicomico County, Maryland house built by the next owner of Bennett's Adventure in the eighteenth century still stands, and in 1975 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[22]

Bennett's descendants include Richard Bland II,[23] John Randolph of Roanoke,[24] Henry Lee III,[24] Robert E. Lee,[24] and Roger Atkinson Pryor.[23]

See also[edit]


  • Claus Bernet: Bennett, Richard (1609–1675), in: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon, vol. 35, Nordhausen 2014, Sp. 43–45.


  1. ^ Fausz, J. Frederick (1998). "Richard Bennett (1609-1679)". Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Virginia Humanities in partnership with the Library of Virginia. available at Virginia/Dictionary of Virginia Biography|accessdate=23 July 2023|
  2. ^ a b c d Papenfuse, Edward C.; Day, Alan F.; Jordan, David W.; Stiverson, Gregory A., eds. (1979). A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789. Vol. 1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 129.
  3. ^ Boddie, 52. Quoted from Virginia Magazine (Vol 30, page 360).
  4. ^ Lossing, Benson John (1901). Harper's Encyclopædia of United States History from 458 A.D. to 1902. Harper & Brothers. p. 544.
  5. ^ EV
  6. ^ a b Tyler, Lyon Gardiner (1915). Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. pp. 47.
  7. ^ Warfield, The FOunders of Ann Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland, (Baltimore, 1905)(republished Baltimore: Regional Publishing Company) p.6
  8. ^ Cynthia Miller Leonard, The Virginia General Assembly 1619-1978 (Richmond: Virginia State Library 1978) p. 8
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Warfield pp. 7-8
  11. ^ Boddie, 17th Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia p. 54
  12. ^ Warfield p. 8
  13. ^ a b Boddie, pp. 62-73
  14. ^ Boddie, p. 75
  15. ^ Boddie, p. 76, 80
  16. ^ Boddie, p.266-267.
  17. ^ Boddie, Colonial Surrey, p. 41.
  18. ^ Michael Cooley, A Case Study in Ancestor abuse: Mary Ann Utie Bennett, available at
  19. ^ Gundersen, Joan; Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Anna Bennett Bland (d. 1687)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  20. ^ a b Hunter, Joseph (1895). "Bland". In Clay, John W. (ed.). Familiae Minorum Gentium. Vol. II. London: The Harleian Society. pp. 421–427.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Paul B. Touart (May 1998). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Bennett's Adventure" (PDF). Maryland Historical Trust. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  23. ^ a b Sons of the American Revolution (1894). "Roll of Members". Yearbook. The Republic Press. p. 198.
  24. ^ 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.