The Head Right Grant

Earliest Settlements in Virginia were by Head Right Grants

The headright was the most important land grant and became the principal basis for title to land in the seventeenth century. Its origin goes back toThe Greate Charter of 1618; as follows: "

That for all persons, which during the next seven years after Midsummer Day 1618 shall go into Virginia with intent there to inhabite If they continue there three years or dye after they are shiped there shall be a grant made of fifty acres for every person upon a first division and as many more upon a second division (the first being peopled) which grants to be made respectively to such persons and their heirs at whose charges the said persons going to inhabite in Virginia shall be transported with reservation of twelve pence yearly rent for every fifty acres to be answered to the said treasurer and company and their successors for ever after the first seven years of every such grant." Thus, it is evident that not only was the headright grant of fifty acres per person open to shareholders who brought settlers into the colony, but also to anyone who had migrated to the colony at his own expense or who had financed the expedition of other persons. Individuals paying their own transportation were entitled to fifty acres for themselves and for every member of the family, providing they fulfilled the residence requirement of three years. This is how so many early settlers became large landowners of thousands of acres. The headright was set aside by the crown in 1624, however, the royal governors continued to honor headright claims based upon immigration. It became the custom. Most of the early settlers were wiped out by the Indians in 1623/1624. Note: There were no black slaves in the colony in 1619. So much for the so-called 1619 Project. If there were, they were killed by the Indians! For those interested, a listing of those exterminated are listed on Virginia Pioneers.net (part of the Georgia Pioneers membership, just click on “VirginiaPioneers”. Here is the link to the dead in Virginia in 1623/4 here

Forts and The Granting of Land

After the Indian massacre of 1623/4, land was granted on a large scale for the establishment of forts. By an Order of the Assembly in 1645 blockhouses or forts were established at strategic points: Fort Charles at the falls of the James River, Fort Royal at Pamunkey, Fort James on the ridge of Chickahominy on the north side of the James, and in the next year Fort Henry at the falls of the Appomattox River. Since the maintenance of these forts was so expensive, the officials decided to prevent the draining of the public treasury by granting forts with adjoining lands to individuals who would accept the responsibility of their upkeep as well as the maintenance of an adequate force for defense. Fort Henry, located at present-day Petersburg, was granted to Captain (later General) Abraham Wood with 600 acres of land plus all houses, edifices, boats, and ammunition belonging to the fort. Wood was required to maintain and keep ten persons continuously at the fort for three years. During this time he was exempted from all public taxes for himself and the ten persons. The same terms were provided to Lieutenant Thomas Rolfe, son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, who received Fort James and 400 acres of land; Captain Roger Marshall, Fort Royal and 600 acres. Since there was no arable land adjoining Fort Charles at present-day Richmond, other inducements were made for its maintenance. All of these forts served as the first line of defense against possible attacks by the natives. Being the center of the varied activities of the frontier, they also were the starting point for expeditions against the Indians and became the center of trade for the outlying regions.

To see lists of land patents and grants in Virginia click here

Note: Most of the early colonists to Virginia were from Great Britain.