Popular Governor of Colonial Virginia (1652-1655)

Gov. Richard Bennett was born 6 August 1609 in Wivelscombe, Somertset, England to Thomas Bennett (1570–1616) and Antsie Tomson and died 1675 Isle of Wight, Virginia of unspecified causes. He married Mary Ann Longworth 1624 in Isle of Wight, Virginia.


Born in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, Bennett served as governor from 30 April 1652, until 2 March 1655.

Early Life

His uncle, Edward Bennett, was a wealthy merchant from London and one of the few Puritan members of the Virginia Company, who had travelled to Virginia Colony in 1621 and settled in Warrascoyack, renamed Isle of Wight County in 1637. Richard Bennett followed his uncle there as a representative of his business interests, and quickly rose to prominence, serving in the House of Burgesses in 1629 and 1631 and becoming a leader of the small Puritan community south of the James River, taking them from Warrasquyoake to Nansemond beginning in 1635. He was a member of the Governor Francis Wyatt's Council in 1639-42. In 1648, he fled to Anne Arundel, Maryland.

Virginia Colonial Politician

Governor William Berkeley had been sympathetic to the Crown during the Civil War, but on 12 March 1652, he surrendered to representatives of the Commonwealth, and Bennett, then back in Virginia, was unanimously elected by the House of Burgesses on 30 April. Though little is known about his time as governor, it is believed that he was popular with the colonists. While Governor of Virginia, he also spent much time directing affairs in Maryland colony, negotiating with the Susquehannock tribe and signing a treaty with them on 5 July 1652, whereby they ceded their claims to "all the land lying from the Patuxent River unto Palmer's Island on the western side of the bay of Chesapeake, and from Choptank River to the northeast branch which lies to the northward of Elk River on the eastern side of the bay." (Some of this area continued to be claimed by the Nanticoke Indian Tribe, however.) He helped ensure Puritan control over the colony of Maryland, then on 30 March 1655, voluntarily abandoned his office and left for England to see Cromwell.

On 30 November 1657, Bennett, having returned to the colonies, signed the treaty with Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, which recognised the latter's claim to Maryland. He returned to the governor's Council, and also became a Major-General, leading forces against a marauding Dutch fleet of four vessels committing depredations at Hampton Roads in 1667.

In 1672, George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement, visited the Virginia Puritans in Nansemond and succeeded in converting most of them to his faith, including Bennett.

Family Life

Richard Bennett is thought to be a son of Thomas Bennett (1570–1616) and Antsie Tomson of Wiveliscombe. In 1666, Secretary Thomas Ludwell wrote to Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington that Richard Bennett seemed to be of the same family, sharing the same coat of arms (also shared by the Bennetts of North Bavant, Wiltshire).[8] By 1642, Richard Bennett married Mary Ann Longworth (widow of John Utie, Jr.[9]); their children were:

  1. Richard Bennett, Jr., married Henrietta Maria Neale, daughter of James Neale of Maryland; drowned at sea 1676
  2. Anna Bennett (died November 1687) first married Theodorick Bland of Westover and had three sons: the original surveyor of both Alexandria and Williamsburg Theodorick Bland, Richard Bland (who had many notable descendants), and John Bland, who was the great-grandfather of Chancellor Theodorick Bland of Maryland.[10] Her second marriage was to Col. St. Leger Codd, and they had one son, also named St. Leger Codd.[10]
  3. Elizabeth Bennett, married Col. Charles Scarborough of Accomac County, the son of Edmund Scarborough[11]

Famous Descendants

Bennett's descendants include:


Offspring of Gov. Richard Bennett and Mary Ann Longworth
Name Birth Death Joined with
Richard Bennett (1645-1720) 1645 Upper Parish, Virginia 1676 Henrietta Maria Neale
Anne Bennett (1647-1687)
Elizabeth Bennett (1659-)




Footnotes (including sources)