Colonial Williamsburg Research Division Web Site

Taking Possession

The “Taking Possession” story line examines the colonists’ quest for land ownership and discusses how their quest affected Native Americans, settlers from other nations, and the development of fundamental American values. For further understanding, please read the key points for this story line.

Middle Plantation in 1699
In June 1699, Virginia’s General Assembly voted to move the capital of Virginia to the small, inland settlement of Middle Plantation and rename it Williamsburg in honor of the king. This vote marked the end of a decades-long effort on the part of Middle Plantation residents to promote their settlement. The men who lived there tried as early as 1677 to make Middle Plantation Virginia’s capital city. It took two more decades of growth and the help of the Reverend James Blair and Governor Francis Nicholson to sway those who found Middle Plantation an unlikely site for such an important town.
John Montour: Life of a Cultural Go-Between
In the stories of Indian-white relations in the colonial era, the Indian headmen and the colonial governors are given a prominent role. And they were key figures. They were the players who signed the treaties, and they were the people who had to persuade their communities to abide by the agreements reached. This is a story about one such man, John Montour.
A Portrait of York County Middling Planters and Their Slaves, 1760-1775
Many eighteenth-century Virginians, as well as colonial Americans generally, liked to divide society into three groups. For example, during the ratifying debate on the Constitution, Patrick Henry spoke of the “well born,” “middle,” and “lower” ranks. Historian Jackson Turner Main notes that characteristics such as “respectable,” “honest,” and “sober” were applied to the “middle sort,” but, Main argues, access to property and wealth was key to “class” distinctions