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John Page Site
The John Page Site: Excavation of a Major House Site on the Bruton Heights Property
by David F. Muraca
Portrait of John Page (courtesy,
Swem Library, College of William and Mary).
As the palisade fell into disrepair, Middle Plantation grew with
the development of other plantations on the high, relatively well-drained
land atop the peninsula. Wealthy "gentry" moved into
the region, among them the young John Page. He arrived in York
County in 1655, a man from a prosperous English family, who was
determined to make his way in Virginia. He was part of the second
permanently-settled generation of Virginia’s elite.
Born in England in 1627, Page came to Virginia twenty-three years later
(Page 1972:15). He soon came to prominence in Virginia by acquiring land and
rising through a series of political offices. In March 1654/5, he was a member
of the House of Burgesses for York County. On November 12, 1677,
he appeared in the records as the "high sherriffe of Yorke
County," a position he held only briefly since less than
a year later he was known as the "former sheriff of York
Co." (YCR, DOW 6:21,44). His fellow York County residents
elected him to membership on the Bruton Parish vestry. Rising
above local county offices, he achieved an appointment to the
Council of State in 1680.
Page not only built up his home plantation, he also acquired land throughout
the colony. In 1683, he came into possession of a tract of land in James City County
known as Neck of Land. This land had originally belonged to John’s
brother Matthew. When Matthew died it was bequeathed to his son
Matthew Page. John Page acquired the land when he paid 140 pounds
for buying his nephew out of slavery in Algiers "& cloathing
him att London" (YCR, DOW 9:103). Page also owned land in
New Kent County. In 1672, he had patented more than three thousand
acres of land in two parcels. At least part of the land had become
a working plantation called Mehixton by the time Page wrote his
will in 1686/7. At that time Page had servants, slaves, livestock
and household goods at Mehixton (Nugent 1977:30; YCR, DOW 9:103).
John Page’s other substantial land holdings were in Middle Plantation.
These lands included much of what was to become Williamsburg. His Middle
Plantation tract included present-day Duke of Gloucester Street, Nicholson
Street, and part of Francis Street. In 1683 he patented three
hundred thirty acres of land in two tracts.
This property, which Page purchased in 1655, was probably covered in
grassland with trees surrounding the ravines and dotting the terrain. Botanical
remains recovered from kiln-related features dating to the 1660s included evidence
of tulip polar as well as grasses that are common in meadows and
along the edges of cultivated fields.
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