1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Williamsburg

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WILLIAMSBURG, a city and the county-seat of James City county, Virginia, U.S.A., on a peninsula between the York and James rivers, 48 m. by rail E.S.E. of Richmond. Pop. (1900) 2044; (1910) 2714. Williamsburg is served by the Chesapeake & Ohio railway. It is the seat of the Williamsburg Female Institute (Presbyterian), and of the College of William and Mary, chartered by the Crown in 1693 and the second oldest college in the United States. Besides the main building and the president's house, the College of William and Mary has a science hall, a gymnasium, a library building, an infirmary and dormitories; in front of the main building is a statue by Richard Hayward of Norborne Berkeley, Lord Botetourt (1717–1770), the most popular royal governor of Virginia. The college offers a classical course and a scientific course, two-thirds of the work in each being prescribed, and in connexion with the normal department is the Matthew Whaley Model and Practice School. In 1909 there were 21 instructors and 228 students in the college, 6 instructors and 140 pupils in the model school, and 20,000 volumes, many of them rare, in the library. Since 1892 the college has published the William and Mary College Quarterly, an historical magazine.

Here in December 1776 was established the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the first American college “Greek Letter” Society, now an inter-collegiate honorary fraternity. The college suffered heavy losses during the War of Independence and in the Civil War. In June 1781 Lord Cornwallis made the president's house his headquarters, and the institution was closed for a few months of that year. It was closed in 1861 because of the Civil War, and the main building was occupied in turn by Confederate troops and by Federal troops until some of the latter burned it in 1862. Although reopened in 1869, the college was closed again from 1881 to 1888 because of the low state of its finances. In 1888 it was reorganized under an act of the state legislature which provided for the addition of a normal course and an annual appropriation towards its maintenance. In 1893 Congress passed an act indemnifying it in some measure for its loss during the Civil War; and in 1906 its endowment was increased to more than $150,000 and it was made a state institution governed by a board (appointed by the governor) and receiving $35,000 annually from the state. Peyton Randolph, Edmund Randolph, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Tyler, Chief Justice John Marshall and General Winfield Scott were graduates of the college.

Bruton Parish Church, completed in 1717 and enlarged in 1752, is the second church of a parish dating from 1674. It contains a Bible given by King Edward VII., a lectern given by President Roosevelt, and some old relics. The church itself has been restored (1905-1907) so far as practicable to its original form and appearance. The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities has preserved a powder magazine, erected in 1714, from which the last royal governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, removed the powder on the day after the encounter at Lexington, Massachusetts, and thus occasioned the first armed uprising of the Virginia patriots. The County and City Court-House was erected in 1769. The Eastern State Hospital for the Insane was opened here in 1773, but its original building was burned in 1885. Among several colonial residences are the George Wythe House, which was the headquarters of Washington during the siege of Yorktown in 1781, and the Peyton Randolph House. The principal industries are the manufacture of men's winter underwear, lumber and ice, and the shipment of lumber and farm and garden produce.

Williamsburg, originally named Middle Plantation from its position midway between the York and James rivers, was founded in 1632. It was immediately walled in and for several years it served as a refuge from Indian attacks. On the 3rd of August 1676 Nathaniel Bacon held here his “rebel” assembly of the leading men of the province, and in January 1677 two of the “rebels” were hanged here. In 1698 Middle Plantation was made the provincial capital; and in 1699 the present name was adopted in honour of William III. Williamsburg was chartered as a city in 1722. In 1736 the Virginia Gazette, the oldest newspaper in the South, was established here. In the capitol here Patrick Henry, on the 30th of May 1765, presented his historic resolutions and made his famous speech against the Stamp Act. On the 15th of May 1776, the Virginia Convention in session here passed resolutions urging the Continental Congress to declare for Independence. In 1779 Richmond became the seat of the state government, and in 1832 fire destroyed the last of the old capitol at Williamsburg with the exception of the foundations, which since 1897 have been cared for by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. In the Peninsula campaign of the Civil War the Battle of Williamsburg was fought on the 5th of May 1862 on the south-eastern outskirts of the city. The Confederate army under General J. E. Johnston was retreating from Yorktown toward Richmond and a part of it under General James Longstreet waited here to check the pursuit of the advance portion of the Union army under General E. V. Sumner. A Union division under General J. D. Hooker began a spirited attack at 7.30 A.M., other Union divisions dealt heavy blows, but they failed from lack of co-operation to rout the Confederates and at night the latter continued their retreat. The Union loss in killed, wounded and missing was 2228; the Confederate about 1560.

See L. G. Tyler, Williamsburg, the Old Colonial Capital (Richmond, 1907), and his “Williamsburg, the Ancient Capital,” in L. P. Powell's Historic Towns of the Southern States (New York, 1900).