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Jordan Point, Virginia

Jordan Point (or Jordan's Point) is a small unincorporated community on the south bank of the James River in the northern portion of Prince George County, Virginia, United States. It is about 20 miles from Richmond and 30 miles upstream from Jamestown on the James River. It was the location of extensive archeological research between 1987 and 1993. This research provided substantial information about human existence in the area from the prehistoric to the late colonial eras. In particular, the research extensively studied the Jordan's Journey settlement that existed between 1620-1640 during early years of the Virginia colony.[2]

Jordan Point
Location of Native American settlement at Jordan's Point upstream from Jamestown on the James River circa 1607 (from Smith and Hole's 1624 map of Virginia).
Location of Native American settlement at Jordan's Point upstream from Jamestown on the James River circa 1607 (from Smith and Hole's 1624 map of Virginia).
Jordan Point is located in Virginia
Jordan Point
Jordan Point
Location within the Commonwealth of Virginia
Jordan Point is located in the United States
Jordan Point
Jordan Point
Jordan Point (the United States)
Coordinates: 37°18′26″N 77°13′14″W / 37.30722°N 77.22056°W / 37.30722; -77.22056Coordinates: 37°18′26″N 77°13′14″W / 37.30722°N 77.22056°W / 37.30722; -77.22056
CountryUnited States
CountyPrince George
20 ft (6 m)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
GNIS feature ID1739904[1]

Early historyEdit

Robert Beverley's illustration of a Native American Village, similar to the one discovered on Jordan Point.

Native American CultureEdit

Though the area around Jordan Point had been occupied by native Americans for millenia, archeologists have found evidence of settled agricultural settlements that date from the late Woodland and English-Native American Contact periods, dating between 1150 to the early 1600s.[2] The archaeological findings suggest that during the Contact period, the area had become a village occupied by the lower orders of the Powhatan chiefdom with the structures conforming to Robert Beverley's description of bark covered buildings,[3] the smaller being shaped like beehives and larger having an oblong form.[2] John Smith and William Hole's map of Virginia shows that the village at Jordan's Point was still extant in 1607,[4] when the first English settlers arrived at Jamestown.

Beggars BushEdit

The English colonists began creating settlements upstream along the James River around 1611.[5]:13–14 By the end of the First Anglo-Powhatan War, the colonists under the command of Thomas Dale had removed the Native American presence at Jordan Point.[6] Just after this time, the land at Jordan Point also became known as Beggars Bush,[7][note 1]a common place name in England with over 120 known instances[9] that alludes to both a temporary shelter for the indigent and a path to ruin.[10][note 2] Beggars Bush also became the residence of an early settler in the area, Samuel Jordan.[11]

Historic marker at location of Jordan's Journey commemorating Samuel Jordan.

In 1620, Jordan patented a 450-acre plantation around Beggars Bush that fell within Charles City,[12] an incorporation of the Virginia Company of London, the early proprietor of the Virginia Colony. As with the majority of plantations in Virginia at this time, the plantation focused on tobacco production with labor primarily supplied through English indentured servants.

During the Powhatan surprise attack of 1622, Beggars Bush was besieged, but it was not overrun[7] and no deaths due to the attack were listed.[13]:566 In the aftermath of the attack, Beggars Bush became one of eight strongholds in the colony,[2]:262 and the Virginia Company ordered all settlers from nearby plantations to abandon their lands and temporarily resettle there.[13]:612

Jordan's Journey and the Jordan-Farrar siteEdit

Samuel Jordan died in early 1623.[11]:563 Around this same time, official colony records begin to refer to the entire settlement as Jordan's Journey.[note 3][note 4] After Samuel's death, his wife Cecily managed the household with the help of a fellow settler, William Farrar, who had sought refuge at Jordan's Journey when his own plantation was overrun in the 1622 Powhatan surprise attack. In the Virginia must of 1624/25, both Farrar and Cecily Jordan were listed as heads of the Jordan's Journey household.[15] Initially Farrar had been bonded to help Cicely Jordan, but they eventually married by 1625.[16]:8,57

Schematic layout of Jordan-Farrar site, circa 1620-1635[17][18]
  Original Jordan Residence (Beggars Bush, 1620-1622)
  Later additions, including palisades (Jordan's Journey, 1622-1635)

Following the massacre, the original residence gradually expanded into the complex at the Jordan-Farrar site, a palisaded fortification structured around five English longhouses.[18]:9 This type of complex is similar to the fortified bawn[17]:6 used by the English to occupy and colonize Ulster during the same time period.[19]:762 The complex had two foci, the original two longhouses of the Jordan household and the three additional longhouses that were built after Farrar arrived; this unusual dual ground plan respected the social reality that Jordan's Journey at this time had two initially unmarried heads of household, William Farrar and Cecily Jordan,[15] while still providing a systematic defensive arrangement based on the principles of then-current fortification theory.[20]:480–482

During this time, Jordan's Journey grew in both population and prosperity.[5]:67–68 By the time of Virginia Muster of 1624/1625, Jordan's Journey was the fourth highest ranked settlement[note 5] in Virginia in terms of combined material wealth, population, and military strength.[21] When Farrar became commissioner in 1626, it became the seat of the "Upper Partes"[sic], which included all settlements upstream from Jordan's Journey from the James River.[22] However, the complex was abandoned sometime between 1635 and 1640.[17]:63 This was about the time that the Farrar family was in the process of acquiring it's 2000-acre patent for Farrar's Island,[23] which was approximately 19 miles upriver from Jordan's Journey.

Jordan's Point PlantationEdit

Historic marker at Jordan Point commemorating Richard Bland (II).

Sometime after the abandonment of the Jordan-Farrar site, the land around Jordan Point came into the possession of Benjamin and Mary Sidway,[24] who surrendered the land in 1657 to the joint ownership of John Bland, a merchant of London, and his brother Theodorick Bland as payment for their debts.[25]

Up to the 1670s, there is no evidence that the Blands actively used the land.[2]:5 However, Giles Bland, the son of merchant John Bland,[26] became involved as Nathaniel Bacon's lieutenant during Bacon's Rebellion in 1676,[27] for which he was hanged a year later.[28] Charles Andrews states that the rebellion started on Jordan's Point when Nathaniel Bacon took leadership over a group of insurgents there, who wanted to attack Native American settlements against the wishes of the colonial government.[29]

Around 1687, Theodorick's son Richard Bland I acquired unencumbered title to the land. and established Jordan's Point Plantation, which was a more typical Virginia Plantation of the later colonial era with its economy still focused on tobacco, but maintained through black slave labor.[30]:105 The archeological record revealed that the residence of Bland was located about 1000 feet west of the Jordan-Farrar site. It consisted of the main building, three outbuildings, a pond, and one of the largest colonial gardens of the era; it was actively used from the mid 1680s to the 1740s.[2]:140–145

When Richard Bland I died in 1720, his son, Richard Bland II, who became both a prominent member of Virginia gentry and a delegate to the Continental Congress, inherited the plantation. He expanded the property by adding a tobacco warehouse and a tobacco inspection station.[18]:83 As evidence of this ongoing expansion, archaeologists also found the remains of a large, elaborate brickwork building "consistent with a Georgian sense of proportion" that had been started around 1760, but its construction appears to have come to a halt with the death of Richard Bland II in 1776 and it was in ruins after 1781, the year that the Virginia tidewater region was invaded by Benedict Arnold.[18]:80

When his father died, Richard Bland III inherited the property and moved inland, building a new residence about 1.5 miles south of the original plantation.[30]:118 Jordan Point itself remained with the Bland family until the end of the 19th century. It was then sold to the Leavenworth family, who sold it to the City of Hopewell in 1929. In 1945, it was acquired by Hummel Aviation.[2]:6 Bland family cemetery, which include the graves of both Richard Bland I and II, is still present at Jordan Point.[31]

Jordan Point and transportationEdit

Jordan Point has a Light Station was established in 1855 to help guide ships up the James River.

In, addition, Jordan Point was long served as a crossing point for the James River. It was once the southern terminus of a ferry system across the river connecting Prince George County with Charles City County on the north shore. In 1966, the Benjamin Harrison Memorial Bridge lift span bridge replaced the ferry system. Jordan Point Road now carries State Routes 106 and 156 between State Route 10 and the bridge.

Jordan Point today seen from the approach to the Benjamin Harrison Memorial Bridge; visible are the skeleton lighthouse tower and keeper's dwelling of the former Jordan Point Lighthouse.

In 1977 the tanker ship S.S. Marine Floridian steaming downstream in the early morning hours collided with the Benjamin Harrison Bridge, when its steering gear malfunctioned. The collision destroyed two spans and seriously damaged the drawbridge. As a result, the bridge was out of service for 20 months and ferry service was temporarily reinstated.

Jordan Point todayEdit

Jordan Point had a small airport built by Hummel Aviation in the 1940s known as the Hopewell Airport. In 1987, the airport property was sold and a residential development, "Jordan on the James" now occupies its former site.[30]:133–134 It was also the site of the Jordan Point Golf Course, which closed in 2015.[32] Today Jordan Point has a marina, the Jordan's Point Yacht Haven,[33] just north of the south footing of the Benjamin Harrison Bridge on the James River. Jordan Point Marina was devastated by the storm surge from Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and over 100 boats and yachts were seriously damaged or destroyed. The marina has since been rebuilt.


  1. ^ Beggars Bush, which was usually spelled without the possessive apostrophe, may have had its name as early as 1617, as the Vingboons map, which is thought to be a Dutch copy of a 1617 English map of the settlements on the James river transliterates the name of the area around Jordan Point as "Beggans Bay".[8]
  2. ^ The English play Beggars Bush, which was published three decades later in 1647, also emphasizes the allusion to ruined fortune.
  3. ^ Both The Lists of the Living and Dead in Virginia, February 16, 1623/24 [14] and the Musters of the Inhabitants in Virginia 1624/25[15] refer to the site as Jordan's Journey.
  4. ^ Alexander Brown notes that Jordan's Journey was one of many alliterative names that were given to some of the earliest plantations (e.g., Pace's Pains, Cawsey's Care, and Chaplains Choice).
  5. ^ James City, Elizabeth City, West & Shirley Hundred were ranked higher.


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Jordan Point, Virginia
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Morgan, Tim; Luccketti, Nicholas; Straube, Beverly; Bessey, S. Fiona; Loomis, Annette; Hodges, Charles (1995). Archaeological Excavations at Jordan's Point: Sites 44PG151, 44PG300, 44PG302, 44PG303, 44PG315, 44PG333. Richmond, VA: Virginia Department of Historic Resources. doi:10.6067/XCV8H41QBZ.
  3. ^ Beverley, Robert (1855) [1722]. The History of Virginia, in Four Parts. Richmond, VA: J. W. Randolph. p. 135.
  4. ^ Smith, John; Hole, William (1624). Virginia (Map). London.
  5. ^ a b Hatch, Charles E. (1957). The First Seventeen Years: Virginia, 1607-1624. Williamsburg, VA: Jamestown 350th Anniversary Celebration Corp.
  6. ^ Brown, Alexander (1898). The First Republic in America. Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin. p. 194.
  7. ^ a b Smith, John (2003) [1624]. The Generall Historie of Virginia, the Fourth Booke (PDF). Madison, WI: Madison Historical Digital Library and Archives, AJ-082. p. 370.
  8. ^ Jarvis, Michael; van Driel, Jeroen (1997). "The Vingboons Chart of the James River, Virginia, circa 1617". William and Mary Quarterly. 54 (2): 377–394. JSTOR 2953278.
  9. ^ Dargue, William (22 June 2017). "Beggar's Bush". Birmingham History: The Local Social History of Birmingham and Its Environs. Archived from the original on 15 September 2017.
  10. ^ Partridge, Eric (2002). A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English: Colloquialisms and Catch Phrases, Fossilised Jokes and Puns, General Nicknames, Vulgarisms and Such Americanisms as Have Been Naturalised. Hove, England: Psychology Press. p. 66.
  11. ^ a b Brown, Alexander (1890). The Genesis of the United States, Vol 2. II. Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin. p. 933.
  12. ^ Nugent, Nell Marion (1934). "Patent Book No. 2". Cavaliers and Pioneers, a Calendar of Land Grants 1623-1800. 1. Richmond, VA: Dietz Press. p. 226.
  13. ^ a b Kingsbury, Susan Myra, ed. (1933). Records of the Virginia Company of London. 3. Washington DC: Government Printing Office.
  14. ^ Hotten, John Camden (1874). "Lists of the Living and Dead in Virginia, February 16, 1623". The Original Lists of Persons of Quality, Emigrants, Religious Exiles, Political Rebels, Serving Men Sold for a Term of Years; Apprentices; Children stolen; Maidens Pressed; and Others Who Went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700 : With Their Ages and the Names of the Ships in Which they Embarked, and other Interesting Particulars; from Mss. Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty's Public Record Office, England. New York, NY: Empire State Book. pp. 167–196.
  15. ^ a b c Hotten, John Camden (1874). "Musters of the Inhabitants in Virginia 1624/25". The Original Lists of Persons of Quality, Emigrants, Religious Exiles, Political Rebels, Serving Men Sold for a Term of Years; Apprentices; Children stolen; Maidens Pressed; and Others Who Went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700 : With Their Ages and the Names of the Ships in Which they Embarked, and other Interesting Particulars; from Mss. Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty's Public Record Office, England. New York, NY: Empire State Book. pp. 199–274.
  16. ^ McIlwaine, H. R., ed. (1924). Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia 1622-1632, 1670-1676 with Notes and Excerpts from Original Council and General Court Records into 1683, Now Lost. Richmond, VA: Virginia State Library.
  17. ^ a b c Mouer, L. Daniel; McLearen, Douglas C.; Kiser, R. Taft; Egghart, Christopher P.; Binns, Beverly; Magoon, Dane (1992). Jordan's Journey: A Preliminary Report on Archaeology at Site 44PG302, 44PG303, Prince George County, Virginia 1990-1991. Richmond, VA: Virginia Commonwealth University Archaeological Research Center. doi:10.6067/XCV8BR8QTW.
  18. ^ a b c d McLearen, Douglas C.; Mouer, L. Daniel; Boyd, Donna M.; Owsley, Douglas W.; Compton, Bertita (1993). Jordan's Journey: A Preliminary Report on the 1992 Excavations at Archaeological Sites 44PG302, 44PG303, and 44PG315. Richmond, VA: Virginia Commonwealth University Archaeological Research Center. doi:10.6067/XCV81J98NK.
  19. ^ Noël Hume, Ivor (June 1979). "First Look at a Virginia Settlement" (PDF). National Geographic. 155 (6): 735–736. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 October 2014.
  20. ^ Hodges, Charles T. (2003). Forts of the Chieftains: A Study of Vernacular, Classical, and Renaissance Influence on Defensible Town and Villa Plans in 17th-Century Virginia (MA). College of William & Mary- Arts & Sciences.
  21. ^ Barka, Norman F. (1993). "The Archaeology of Piersey's Hundred, Virginia, within the Context of the Muster of 1624/5". In James Stoltman (ed.). Archaeology of Eastern North America Papers in Honor of Stephen Williams, Archaeological Report No 25 (PDF). Jackson, MI: Mississippi Department of Archives and History. pp. 313–335. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2016.
  22. ^ Hening, William Waller, ed. (1809). The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the year 1619. Published Pursuant to an Act of the General Assembly of Virginia. Richmond, VA: Samuel Pleasants, Jr., printer to the common wealth. p. 168.
  23. ^ Nugent, Nell Marion (1934). "Patent Book No. 1". Cavaliers and Pioneers, a Calendar of Land Grants 1623-1800. 1. Richmond, VA: Dietz Press. p. 60.
  24. ^ McCartney, Martha W. (2007). Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1635. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing. p. 60. ISBN 9780806317748.
  25. ^ Davis, Eliza T. (1980) [1956]. Surry County Records, 1652-1684. Baltimore, MD: Genealogy Press. p. 21.
  26. ^ William, Neville (1964). "The Tribulations of John Bland, Merchant: London, Seville, Jamestown, Tangier, 1643-1680". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 72 (1): 19–41. JSTOR 4246996.
  27. ^ Magill, Mary T. (1890). History of Virginia for the Use of Schools. Lynchburg, VA: J.P. Bell Company. pp. 104–105.
  28. ^ Andrews, Charles M. (1915). Narratives of the Insurrections, 1675-1690. New York, NY: Charles Scribner's & Son.
  29. ^ Tyler, Lyon G. (1915). Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography. New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing. p. 188.
  30. ^ a b c McCartney, Martha W. (2015). Jordan's Point, Virginia: Archaeology in Perspective, Prehistoric to Modern Times. University of Virginia Press.
  31. ^ Google (9 August 2019). "Location of Bland Cemetery" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  32. ^ Schwartz, Michael (16 October 2015). "143-Acre Golf Club Sold after Foreclosure". Richmond BizSense.
  33. ^ "Jordan Point Yacht Haven".

Additional ResourcesEdit

  • Martha McCartney's (2011) book Jordan's Point, Virginia, Archaeology in Perspective, Prehistoric to Modern Times (ISBN 9780615455402) provides a detailed overview of the archeological finds at Jordan point, as well as comprehensive history of the area.
  • Catherine Alston's (2004) Artifact Images from Jordan's Journey provides color images of many of the artifacts dating from 1620-1640 discovered at Jordan's Journey. (McCartney, 2011, explains their significance).
  • Catherine Alston's (2004) Artifact Distribution Maps from Jordan's Journey provides detailed maps of Jordan Journey archaeological site, particularly the layout of the Jordan-Farrar complex.
  • Ivor Noël Humes (1979) National Geographic article First Look at a Lost Virginia Settlement is primarily focused on the Wolstenholme Towne site, but provides images of life in Virginia in the 1620s during the time that Jordan's Journey was founded that are based on the archaeological record.

External linksEdit