Richard Bennett (governor)

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Richard Bennett (1608 – 12 April 1675) was an English Governor of the Colony of Virginia.


Born in Wiveliscombe, Somerset in 1608 and christened 6 August 1609,[1] Bennett served as governor from 30 April 1652, until 2 March 1655.[2][3] 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[4] 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.[5]

Governor William Berkeley had been sympathetic to the Crown during the English 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.[4] While Governor of Virginia, he also spent much time directing affairs in Maryland colony, 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.[6]

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.[3] 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.[7]

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.[8]


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). Biographer John Boddie, however, discounted the accuracy of the report.[9] By 1642, Richard Bennett married Mrs. Mary Ann Utie, the widow of John Utie, Jr.[10] (There is no documentary evidence for Mary Ann's maiden name.) Their children were:

Bennett's descendants include Richard Bland II,[14] John Randolph of Roanoke,[15] Henry Lee III,[15] Robert E. Lee,[15] and Roger Atkinson Pryor.[14]

See also[edit]


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


  1. ^ Boddie, 52. Quoted from Virginia Magazine (Vol 30, page 360).
  2. ^ Lossing, Benson John (1901). Harper's Encyclopædia of United States History from 458 A.D. to 1902. Harper & Brothers. p. 544.
  3. ^ a b Tyler, Lyon Gardiner (1915). Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 47.
  4. ^ 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. p. 41.
  5. ^ Boddie, 17th Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia p. 54
  6. ^ Boddie, p. 62-73
  7. ^ Boddie, p. 75
  8. ^ Boddie, p. 76, 80
  9. ^ Boddie, p.266-267.
  10. ^ Boddie, Colonial Surrey, p. 41.
  11. ^ Gundersen, Joan; Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Anna Bennett Bland (d. 1687)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  12. ^ a b Hunter, Joseph (1895). "Bland". In Clay, John W. (ed.). Familiae Minorum Gentium. II. London: The Harleian Society. pp. 421–427.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ a b Sons of the American Revolution (1894). "Roll of Members". Yearbook. The Republic Press. p. 198.
  15. ^ 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.