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Colonial Williamsburg History

When English settlers set foot on New World soil in 1607, they made their homes in Jamestown.   But the choice was not a good one, because Jamestown was on a low, marshy island full of biting insects.

 They decided to move to Middle Plantation, which was 5 miles inland. By 1690 it  was a small village with stores, mills,  tavern,  church and  homes.

Middle Plantation became the focus for colonists who wanted a grand capital city. The name Middle Plantation was changed to Williamsburg in honor of William III, King of England.

The Market Square was a main street stretching from the Capitol building to the new College of William and Mary. The community included tailors, carpenters, bakers, gunsmiths, wheelwrights, merchants, clerks, and slaves.

By the mid-18th century, Williamsburg was a thriving town of commerce and government. Close to 2,000 people called the city home just before the American Revolution. Half of them were slaves.

Taverns were the political, social, and cultural heart of Colonial life. Virginia's burgesses held secret sessions in Raleigh Tavern. Thomas Jefferson  called Williamsburg "Devilsburg".

Williamsburg had a  prominent role in events leading to the Revolutionary War. In 1765 Patrick Henry delivered his rousing Stamp Act Speech at the House of Burgesses here. The First Continental Congress was called from here in 1774.

The Revolution ended less than ten miles away, in 1781 with the surrender of Cornwallis to Washington on the fields of Yorktown. Yorktown is part of the historic triangle of Virginia.


 
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