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Virginia History TimelineHistory Timeline: State Flag

Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Virginia

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Virginia history.

The geographic region now known as Virginia is inhabited for at least 3,000 years by groups of Native Americans, including the Algonquin, the Iroquoian, and the Siouan. Much of eastern Virginia is inhabited by the Powhatan Confederacy, which is largely destroyed by European settlers by 1646.

One of the 13 original colonies, Virginia was the first part of the country permanently settled by the English, who established Jamestown on the banks of the James River in 1607.

16th Century Virginia History Timeline

1558 - Queen Elizabeth succeeds Queen Mary.

1562 -

  • Jean Ribault establishes Huguenot colony (Charles Fort) at Port Royal in South Carolina.
  • John Hawkins makes his first voyage to the West Indies.

1563 - Charles Fort abandoned.

1564 -

  • Second colony of Huguenots under Rene de Laudonniere established on St. John's River in Florida.
  • John Hawkins second voyage to the West Indies and Guinea.

1565 - St. Augustine established.

1567 - John Hawkins departs on third voyage.

1568 - Hawkins fights Spanish at Battle of Vera Cruz, later set ashore at Tampico, Mexico, where three of his men began a 12 month march to the north, reaching Cape Breton.

1576 - Martin Frobisher's first voyage.

1577 - Martin Frobisher's second voyage.

1578 -

  • Martin Frobisher's third voyage.
  • England and Netherlands sign treaty to fight Spain.
  • Humphrey Gilbert sailed for America with 350 men but was forced to return.

1580 - Sir Francis Drake returns to England from voyage around the world.

1583 - Sir Humphrey Gilbert's voyage to Newfoundland and his ship was lost on the return voyage.

1584 -

  • Name "Virginia"Suggested, Virginia was named for Queen Elizabeth I of England (she was known as the Virgin Queen). Sir Walter Raleigh may have suggested the name.
  • Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe reach Roanoke Island in July, returned to England in September.

1585 - Raleigh's fleet of seven vessels under Richard Grenville and Ralph Lane, with 108 men, reach Roanoke Island in June.

1586 -

  • In June, Sir Francis Drake arrives from Florida and removes the Lane colony to England.
  • Sir Richard Grenville and three ships arrive at Roanoke in August.

1587 - John White with 150 men, women, and children sent by Sir Walter Raleigh to plant the Cittie of Raleigh on the Chesapeake Bay, landed at Hatorask on July 22.

1590 - John White returns to Roanoke Island.

1592 - Capt. Christopher Newport sailed for the West Indies

1596 - Capts. Amias Preston and George Somers sail to the West Indies.

17th Century Virginia History Timeline

1602 -

  • Sir Walter Raleigh sent Samuel Mace of Weymouth on a voyage to Virginia (North Carolina) to gather plant materials and to search for survivors of the Lost Colony.
  • Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold, Capt. Bartholomew Gilbert, Capt. Gabriel Archer, and others sent on voyage to New England coast.
  • Nova Scotia visited regularly by English traders.

1603 -

  • Capt. Martin Pring sent to New England coast by Bristol merchants.
  • Capt. Bartholomew Gilbert sent on voyage to Chesapeake Bay, Gilbert and 4 others went ashore (likely the Eastern Shore) and were killed by Indians.
  • James VI of Scotland becomes James I.

1606 - Fleet leaves London on December 20

1607 -

  • April 30 - Ships at Cape Comfort, a vanguard boat stopped at Kecoughtan where the natives welcomed the English.
  • May 14+ - Newport, Smith Percy, Archer, and others spent 6 days exploring the James River up to the falls and Powhatan's village.
  • 200 armed Indians attack Jamestown, killing 1 and wounding 11.
  • May 28 - "we laboured, pallozadoing our fort" Gabriel Archer (Arber)
  • June 4 - "by breake of Day. 3. Of them had most adventurously stollen under our Bullwark and hidden themselves in the long grasse..." Gabriel Archer (Arber)
  • June 10 - John Smith released from arrest and sworn in as member of the Council.
  • June 22 - Newport sails for England.
  • September 10 - President Wingfield deposed, Ratcliffe elected
  • Early December - Smith captured by Opechancanough

1608 -

  • January - Newport returns with the First Supply and about 100 new settlers, finds only 38 survivors.
  • Powhatan releases Smith.
  • January 7 - Fire destroyed "all the houses in the fort"
  • March (?) - "repairing our Pallizadoes" John Smith
  • April 10 - Newport sails for England
  • September 10 - Smith elected President
  • October - Newport arrives with the Second Supply and first two women and 8 Dutchmen or Poles who were "glasse-men." No more supplies from England until May of 1610.
  • End of Year - Newport returns to England carrying with him

1609 -

  • May 23 - Virginia Company replaces Council with Governor who has absolute control.
  • August - Seven ships arrive at Jamestown, Sea Venture wrecked on Bermuda. 200-300 men, women, and children.
  • September 10 - Capt. George Percy replaces Capt. John Smith as president of the Council, Smith returned to England.

1610 -

  • May 23 - Gates (acting as Virginia's first governor until arrival of Thomas West-Lord De La Warr), John Rolfe, Ralph Hamor, Sir George Somers, and other survivors of the Sea Venture wrecked at Bermuda arrive at Jamestown. Find 60 survivors of the starving time.
  • May24 - Gates issues The Divine, Moral, and Martial Laws.
  • June 7 - Gates decides to abandon Jamestown.
  • June 8 - Gates' convoy meets Lord De La Warr's ships at Mulberry Island.
  • June 10 - Relanded all his men at the fort again
  • August 9 - English launch major attack on the Paspahegh village, capturing and executing the Queen and her children, burning houses and cutting down corn fields. Subsequent use of word Paspahegh in documents refers to their former territory.

1611 -

  • March 28 - De La Warr leaves for England, George Percy is Deputy Governor until arrival of Thomas Dale, about 150 people left.
  • May 12 - Dale arrives off Point Comfort.
  • August - Sir Thomas Gates, Lt.-Governor returns to Virginia with 280 people and assumes control.
  • September - Dale with 350 men start building Henricus.
  • Early Fall - William Strachey leaves Virginia for England
  • John Rolfe imports tobacco seeds from Trinidad, Nicotiana tabacum, native tobacco was Nicotiana rustica.

1612 - John Rolfe exports first crop of improved tobacco.

1613 -

  • April - Pocahontas captured and brought to Jamestown.
  • June - John Rolfe makes first shipment of West Indian tobacco grown in Virginia to England.

1614 -

  • February - Gates leaves Virginia, leaving Dale as Deputy Governor.
  • April 5 - John Rolfe and Pocahontas married at Jamestown
  • June - Argall and Ralph Hamor depart from Virignia for England.

1616 -

  • May - John Rolfe, Pocahontas, and son depart Virginia for England.
  • June 2 - Thomas Dale arrives in London, leaving Virgina in hands of Capt. George Yeardly.

1619-1632 - First Legislative Meeting – Jamestown Virginia's General Assembly met for eleven years in the choir of the church at Jamestown. This building was the only one large enough to hold the Council, the Governor, and the 22-member House of Burgesses (as it was known until 1775).

1632-1656 - First State House - Jamestown. The Council and the House of Burgesses met in the colonial governor's home (Sir John Harvey), at his expense. They used this house until 1656.

1656-1660 - Second State House - Jamestown. The second state house lasted just four years. They are still unsure of the exact location of this house. It was destroyed in 1660.

1660-1665 - During these five years, the legislature met in one of the
Jamestown taverns.

1665-1676 - Third State House - Jamestown. The third capitol was located about a half mile west of the first state house. This building and the Jamestown settlement were burned in 1676 during Bacon's Rebellion.

1674 - The Bacon rebellion fights for colonial rights in Western Virginia

1676-1685 - The first Assembly after the fire was held at "Green Spring." This is where the governor lived, which was outside of town. As buildings began to go up in Jamestown again, the legislators met once more in taverns and in private homes.

1685-1699 - Fourth State House - Jamestown. The fourth capitol was built on the ruins of the third. They met here for 14 years. In 1699, this last Jamestown state house went up in smoke. Its foundations were found and identified in 1903. Jamestown was no longer the capital after the fire that burned this 4th state house.

1693 - The College of William and Mary is founded

18th Century Virginia History Timeline

1699-1704 - In 1699 the town of Williamsburg was established and was designated as the capital of the colony. The General Assembly met temporarily in the Wren Building at The College of William and Mary.

1704-1747 - Fifth State House - First Williamsburg Capitol. This brick capitol was in the form of an H, each wing of which was two stories high. There were many visitors to Williamsburg when the General Assembly was in session. In 1747 this capitol was destroyed by fire.

1732 - Birth of George Washington. George Washington was born in Westmoreland County on February 22, 1732. He was the 1st US President,
serving from 1789 to 1797.

1747-1753 - After the capitol building in Williamsburg was destroyed by fire, Virginia's legislators again met in the Wren Building at The College of William and Mary.

1751 - Birth of James Madison. James Madison was born. James Madison, at 5-foot, 4-inches, was the shortest president.

1753-1780 - Sixth State House - Second Williamsburg Capitol. The sixth state house was built on the same site as the fifth and was built in the same H shape, but was not as elaborate. When the state government moved to Richmond in
1780, this building was used by George Wythe, professor of law at The College of William and Mary, to train future leaders by doing moot courts and mock legislatures.The building was destroyed by fire in 1832. All that is left now is a marker to show where the building once stood.

1758 - James Monroe born in Westmoreland County, Virginia with items he purchased at an auction of possessions belonging to the executed Queen Marie Antoinette of France.

1770 - William Clark born in Caroline County. Soldier, explorer; born in Caroline County, Va. He shared command of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition (1804--06) with Meriwether Lewis. William Clark is also known for his fine maps and illustrations of the animals of the territory.

1771 - Richmond Flood

1773 - William Henry Harrison was born at Berkley Harrison served as US President for 31 days before he died of pneumonia. He died on April 4, 1841, the first President to die in office.

1774 - Meriwether Lewis born in Albemarle County, Virginia

1776 - Virginia adopts its first constitution and declares independence

1780-1788 - The Capitol – Richmond. Richmond was established as the new capital. The General Assembly met in a building at the corner of Pearl (now 14th) and Cary Streets until permanent buildings were built. In 1781 with the threat of British invasion and possible captivity, the legislators met in Charlottesville, but the lawmakers were not safe there either. They escaped and met on June 7 at the Episcopal church in Staunton – prepared to flee farther west if necessary. In October the Assembly moved back to Richmond, in their "temporary capitol". This temporary capitol was demolished sometime before 1851 and is now marked
by a small bronze plaque.

1784 - Zachary Taylor born in Virginia. The first time Zachary Taylor voted was when he voted for himself in the 1849 presidential election.

1788 - June 25 - Virginia entered Statehood Virginia becomes the 10th state.

1788-1904 - First Permanent Capitol – Richmond. The capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson, is modeled after the Maison Carrée in France. In the center of this building is the life-size statue of George Washington (made by Houdon). In this area there are also busts of the seven other Virginia-born presidents and of Lafayette (a French volunteer who fought for America and for Virginia during the American Revolution). The General Assembly met here for 116 years, except
in 1849 when there was a cholera epidemic and they decided to meet elsewhere.

1789-1797 - George Washington served as President of the United States
In the center of the capitol in Richmond is the life-size statue of George Washington (made by Houdon). This is said to be the only statue that Washington ever posed for.

1790 - John Tyler born in Virginia. John Tyler was the first Vice President to become President due to the death of his predecessor-William Henry Harrison.

19th Century Virginia History Timeline

1809 -

  • January 19 - Edgar Allan Poe born
  • The Poe museum is located in Richmond, VA.

1831 - Nat Turner led a slave revolt

1861 -

  • Virginia's state flag adopted in 1861 - The flag has a blue background with a white circle in the center. In the center are the words "VIRGINIA," and "SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS" (Latin for "thus always to tyrants").
  • Virginia secedes and joins the Confederacy; the Civil War begins
  • May 24-25 - Union troops occupy Arlington Heights and Alexandria. Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth is killed after removing a Confederate flag from the Marshall House in Alexandria.
  • June 1 - Cavalry clash at Fairfax Court House. First Confederate officer killed.
  • June 17 - Troops clash at Vienna
  • July 21 - First Battle of Manassas
  • Oct. 21 - Battle of Ball's Bluff
  • Dec. 21-22 - Battle of Dranesville

1862 -

  • Aug. 22 - Confederate raid at Catlett's Station
  • Aug. 29-30 - Battle of Second Manassas
  • Sept. 1 -Battle of Chantilly
  • Sept. 4-6 - Confederate army passes through Leesburg on the march to Maryland

1863 -

  • West Virginia is formed from northwestern Virginia
  • March 17 - Raid on Kelly's Ford
  • March 30 - Mosby raids Catlett's Station
  • June 19-21 - Stuart's cavalry fights screening action along modern Route 50
  • Oct. 14 - Battle of Bristoe Station

1864 -

  • July 13-16 - Early crosses back into Virginia after Maryland excursion
  • Nov. 6 - Mosby attacks workers on Manassas Gap Railroad at Salem

1865 -

  • April 9 - General Lee surrendered
  • April 21 - Mosby disbands his Rangers, rather than surrender them

1870 -

  • Virginia reenters the United States
  • Capitol Disaster. A hot debate over a case involving a mayor attracted a
    large crowd to the second floor room above the chamber of the House of Delegates. The floor collapsed because of the weight of all of the people- killing 62 and injuring 251.
  • Virginia's Constitution provides for public schools. The first public law on schooling separates the races.

1873 - Virginia writer and poet Ellen Glasgow born Writer, poet; born in Richmond, Va. She grew deaf starting in 1889. She wrote poetry, essays, and short stories.

1876 - Coal Discovered in Southwestern Virginia

1877 - Richmond Flood

1895 - Association for the Preservation of Virginia's Antiquities (APVA) is created.

1899 - The brick church and the Ambler House are all that remains to indicate the past of Jamestown Island. Mr. and Mrs. Edward E. Barney give 22.5 acres on Jamestown Island to the APVA.

20th Century Virginia History Timeline

1901 - Began passing Jim Crow Laws, created segregation

1902 - Constitution of 1902

1903 - Maggie Lena Walker opened the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank for African- Americans.

1904 - Present Day Capitol - Richmond. In 1904 extensive renovation and additional construction to the Capitol were begun. Wings were added to the
west of the original structure as a new Senate chamber and to the east as new quarters for the House of Delegates.

1913-1921 - Woodrow Wilson served as the 28th President of the United States
He officially proclaimed the second Sunday in May to be Mother's Day.

1914 - World War I begins in Europe; Woodrow Wilson (from Virginia) president

1917 - US declares war

1918 - World War I ends- US and allies wins!

1920 - 19th Amendment- women can vote

1929 - Great Depression starts; people lost jobs

1932 -

  • September 8 - Patsy Cline born in Winchester, VA Country singer.
  • 1932 - Franklin D. Roosevelt elected president

1936 - Richmond Flood

1939-40 - Aline Black and Melvin Austin go to court to secure equal pay for Black teachers in Norfolk, Virginia.

1941-1943 - Pentagon built in Arlington. The construction of the Pentagon was ordered by Brigadier General Brehon Sommervell. It was to consolidate 17 War Department buildings and cost $83 million dollars.

1941-1948 - Black parents and students fight for busing, equal facilites, and equal curricula.

1941 - December 7th - Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japanese; US declare war

1943 - July 10 - Arthur Ashe born in Richmond, VA. Arthur Ash was the first and only African-American male tennis player to win the "Gentleman's Singles" title at Wimbledon. In 1975 Ashe was ranked No. 1 in the world.

1945 - End of World War II

1950 - School desegregation begins in Virginia when the first Black student attends the Law School at the University of Virginia.

1953 - The first Black student is admitted to Virginia Tech.

1954 - May - Segregation declared unconstitutional

1958 - Virginia declares no integrated schools would receive funding

1959 - Some schools desegregated (in Norfolk, Charlottesville, and elsewhere), but Prince Edward county closes its schools rather than comply with court ordered desegregation.

1960's - Most schools in Virginia integrated

1962 - Washington Dulles Airport opened. This terminal was designed by Finnish-born architect Eero Saarinen.

1964 -

  • Civil Rights act passed in Congress
  • The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel opens

1981 - December 28 - Elizabeth Jordan Carr born in Norfolk. She was the 1st American test tube baby.

1989 - L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia becomes first African American elected governor.

1992 - In Bermuda, the Sea Venture's contents are recovered and fully documented.

1990-1994 - Douglas Wilder served as Governor of Virginia. A Richmond attorney, Governor Wilder served in the Senate of Virginia and as Lieutenant Governor before becoming the first elected African-American governor in
US history.

1999 - September 6 -Ten year Old Enters College Gregory Smith (10), boy genius, began his first day of class at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland.

21st Century Virginia History Timeline

2003 - Over 1 million customers lost electricity due to Hurricane Isabel

2007 -

  • 33 students at Virginia Tech massacred by fellow student
  • 400th anniversary of nation's founding held at Jamestown

2009 -

  • Sen. Edward (Ted - Kennedy buried at Arlington beside brothers, John and Robert
  • Snowstorm killed three, stranded hundreds of motorists


2010 -

  • 11 pirates indicted in Norfolk for attacks on U.S. Navy ships near Somalia
  • Two members of suspected spy ring, living in Virginia, admitted to being Russian citizens

2011 -

  • Two people killed in shooting at Virginia Tech
  •  Earthquake in Virginia damaged buildings in Washington, DC
US History Overview
US History Guide
The word History comes from the Greek word historía meaning "to learn or know by inquiry." History is not static. It's fluid. It changes and grows and becomes richer and more complex when any individual interacts with it.


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