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Photographer: Kelbert McFarland Photography


The Houses of Burgesses

400 years ago today, we got our first legislative body- the House of Burgesses for the Virginia Colony in Jamestown. There were 22 representatives elected from the James River plantations and we are going to talk about a few of those plantations that are of special interest to us as they belonged to our X great-grandfathers, Houses of Burgesses founding members Samuel Jordan and Lt. John Gibbs.

Funnily enough my married last name is Burgher, which comes from this Burgesses concept/word, meaning my husband's X great-grandfathers would have been the German version so I have something from out own "House of Burgesses" to start off with...

1619 was not a time with a lot of furniture and decorative accessories like we have today- especially in colonial America. It hearkened back to the Middle Ages, in a way, when even royals did not have furnished castles because of the constant battles. One of the first pieces of furniture was a trunk because it could easily be transported with inside storage to the next place if your castle were to crumble. We have an early medieval trunk that was passed on to us at the foot of our bed. This type of crude wood furniture could be similar to something a founding member of the House of Burgesses may have had on their plantation. It is carved, but not incredibly ornate, but it was certainly built to last and we love using this piece today. It is perfect for storing linens etc. Those pictured are our Pierre Frey duvet (custom) and a Goodwin Weavers throw (vintage and stolen from my parents to take to college like a baby blanket).

Below is a picture of the whole bedroom for context.

We are renting this little '40s house our first year being married and definitely not going to great lengths to fully furnish it. The house belongs to my in-laws great friends, our landlords. And the trunk fits in perfectly for an undecorated look as it comes from a time when even real lords did not fully furnish their homes. Being a colonist was like being a part of the feudal system in this way- that temporary mindset, and the plantations of early Jamestown were not yet the estates you associate with the "Old South." If you have been to Jamestown, you have seen the thatched cottages they lived in and even gotten to go inside which is fun. those typify the plantation style that the aforementioned Samuel Jordan patented, called Jordan's Journey. Jordan did not have male heirs, hence (for example) we are not the Jordans though he is our direct ancestor, but his daughters inherited the plantation and there are many Jordan namesakes in the area. Jordan Point is the name of the bank of the James River and Jordan Point Lighthouse, from the 1800s, is below. There is also a Jordan Point Road.

This lighthouse was sold and replaced with an airport, then Jordan Point golf course, then Jordan Point Yacht marina which was destroyed by Hurricane Isabel. Sadly, at Jordan Point today is a residential development called "Jordan on the James." But we are going to look back at what it would have been originally. When Jordan lived on the plantation it was known as Beggars Bush. He began growing tobacco, with the help of indentured servants, and the newly named Jordan's Journey became the 4th most prosperous plantation in Virginia. Below is what Jordan's Journey would have looked like at the time.

It eventually developed into a typical Virginia plantation house with three outbuilding, a pond, and one of the largest colonial gardens ever! We wish there was a drawing/painting/anything from this time. Our other founding member, Lt. John Gibbs owned Wardes Plantation. There is little information out there on Wardes, but we know it would be similar to Beggars Bush/Jordan's Journey. We also know that Gibbs came to America on the ship Supply and he came from clan Gibbs of Rothesay Castle originally so we will include its picture below. He would have had to live like his feudal ancestors in the colonies essentially anyways.

And because we love vintage/antique graphic design too here is the Gibbs coat of arms:

The first meeting of the House of Burgesses took place at the Jamestown Church where Pocahontas married John Rolfe. The current church still functions as an Anglican church today. We will leave with an image of how it now looks.