( Originally Published 1900 )
Land was cheap in Virginia in the early days. In 1662 the King of Mattapony sold his village and five thousand acres to the colonists for fifty match-coats. During the seventeenth century the value of land reckoned in tobacco, as sold in England, averaged for cleared ground about four shillings per acre, the shilling then having a purchasing power equal to a dollar now. It was at this time that most of the great Virginian estates along James River were formed, the colonists securing in some cases large grants. Thus, John Carter of Lancaster took up 18,570 acres, John Page 5000 acres, Richard Lee 12,000 acres, William Byrd 15,000 acres, after-wards largely increased; Robert Beverley 37,000 acres and William Fitzhugh over 50,000 acres. These were the founders of some of the most famous Virginian families. The demand for labor naturally brought Virginia within the market of the slave trader, but very few negroes were there in the earlier period. The first negroes who arrived in Virginia were disembarked at Jamestown from a Dutch privateer in 1619—twenty Africans. In 1622 there were twenty-two there, two more having landed; but it is noted that no negro was killed in the James-town massacre. In 1649 there were only three hundred negroes in Virginia, and in 1671 there were about two thousand. In the latter part of the seventeenth century the arrivals of negro slaves became more frequent—labor being in demand. The records show that the planters had great difficulty in supplying them with names, everything being ransacked for the purpose—mythology, history and geography —and hence the peculiar names they have conferred in some cases on their descendants. In 1640 a robust African man when sold commanded 2700 pounds of tobacco, and a female 2500 pounds, aver-aging, at the then price of tobacco, about seventeen pounds sterling for the men. Prices afterwards advanced to forty pounds sterling for the men. In 1699 all newly arrived slaves were taxed twenty shillings per head, paid by the master of the vessel.
As the colony developed, the typical dwelling be-came a framed log building of moderate size, with a big chimney at each end, there being no cellar and the house resting on the ground. The upper and lower floors were each divided into two rooms. Such a house, built in 1679, measuring forty by twenty feet, cost twelve hundred pounds of tobacco. Finally, when more prosperity came in the eighteenth century, the houses were developed and enlarged into more pretentious edifices, built of bricks brought out from England. These were the great colonial houses of the wealthy planters, so many of which exist until the present day. The most prosperous time in colonial Virginia was the period from 1710 until 1770. The exports of tobacco to England and flour and other produce to the West Indies made the fortunes of the planters, so that their vast estates and large retinues of slaves made them the lordly barons whose fame spread throughout Europe, while their wealth enabled them to gather all the luxuries of furniture and ornament for their houses then attainable. It was in these noble colonial mansions, surrounded by regiments of negro servants, that the courtly Virginians of the olden time dispensed a princely hospitality, limited only by their ability to secure what-ever the world produced. The stranger was always welcome at the bountiful board, and the slave children grew up amid plenty, hardly knowing what work was. This went on with more or less variation until the Civil War made its tremendous upheaval, which scattered both whites and blacks. But the typical Virginian is unchanged, continuing as open-hearted and hospitable, though his means now are much less. To all he has, the guest is welcome ; but it is usually with a tinge of regret that he recalls the good old time when he might have done more.