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Williamsburg History, Virginia

One of the most well-known tourist destinations worldwide is the Historic Triangle of Virginia, consisting of Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg, which sits in the center of the Triangle in the region of the Hampton Roads. Carefully hidden from commercial areas, its scenic byways also connect this city to Richmond.

Williamsburg History – The 17th Century

17th century saw the beginning of Williamsburg history. In 1607, the English colonists arrived in the wooded area of Jamestown, which is today known as Williamsburg. Back in this colonial period, its rivers were comparable to today’s contemporary highways. Colonial settlements located themselves near these rivers for more convenience and security against the Native Americans.

By 1630, the English settlements started to dominate most of the Virginia Peninsula and the Native Americans had to leave their villages for remote places, though they still kept ongoing battles. Due to this, colonists had to build stockades for security.

The place, which was soon to become Williamsburg settled by 1638 and was called Middle Plantation.

Here, the first school of higher education was built in the late 1690’s.

After several attempts, a royal charter to build the school was obtained and was named the College of William and Mary, with regards to the monarchs in that century. By 1693, a proper location was found, where classes were held temporarily a year later. By 1698, things were making great headway with the college’s facilities and the colonial capital was moved straight to Middle Plantation, where a village was built and renamed to Williamsburg after England’s King William III.

Williamsburg History – The 18th Century

Now know as the colonial capital, a capitol building was built, along with a parish church in front of the college.

18th century saw series of important events in Williamsburg history. In 1719, Virginia’s lieutenant governor Alexander Spotswood filled up ravines, leveled out streets, and built more colleges. A royal charter was given to Williamsburg in 1722, which is today known as the oldest royal charter in America.

Williamsburg was also the first place where an actual American psychiatric hospital was built. This occurred in 1770 and was a public hospital for the psyhically challenged. A year later, the building was given an extra story and was able to keep 24 patients.

Williamsburg History – The American Revolutionary War

In 1772, the Gunpowder Incident started between Lord Dunmore and the colonists regarding gunpowder found in Williamsburg. Dunmore was scared of rebellion and thus ordered marines to take all the gunpowder. However, militia leader Patrick Henry fought for what was stolen and came into Williamsburg to take the gunpowder back. The problem was solved when the gunpowder was paid for. And, although seemingly unimportant, it became a big case that led to the American Revolution.

In 1776, after Britain’s Declaration of Independence, the American Revolutionary War came to place. During this time, Virginia’s capital was moved to Richmond due to the wishes of Governor Thomas Jefferson. But despite this occurrence, Williamsburg still maintained its high status of being a location of important events.

Despite all the losses that occurred in Williamsburg, more colleges were built and the public hospital still exists today under the name of Eastern State Hospital.

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