The Hanover County Historical Society's quarterly meeting took place on Sunday, April 8, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Hanover Courthouse. The speaker was Andrew Rowand, an agricultural specialist at Henricus Historical Park, who presented 17th Century Virginia Agriculture.
Andrew Rowand of Henricus Historical Park
25 people attended this event, in which Mr. Rowand spoke about the experience of Virginia's 17th century English settlers from an agricultural perspective.

The first English settlers coming to Virginia expected that their adventure would be similar to that of the Spanish in South America: Easy pickings with gold a-plenty, and a structured society to enlist as slaves.

Few if any considered a need to plan for the long term, and found that many tried-and-true methods of farming, and even crops themselves, didn't work in the New World. A land without roads, cleared fields or accessible beasts of burden, added to a different climate and soil than that of England, resulted in a real risk of starvation for the settlers.

The indigenous people did help the settlers with some cultivation practices, but only a lengthy period of trial-and-error revealed what worked agriculturally in Virginia.

Hanover Delegate Chris Peace presents HCHS President Faye Wade with a framed proclamation by the legislature, commemorating the Society's 50th birthday.

Society Vice President Art Taylor presents Mr. Rowand with Society publications.

What worked was tobacco! Virginia's tobacco was initially the world's "off-brand," of inferior quality to that already being grown in Spain and Holland. Fabled English explorer John Rolfe somehow purloined some European tobacco seeds, with which the Virginian colonists were able to produce a more saleable crop.
Tobacco was a heavily labor-reliant crop to produce, but was much valued by England. Though slavery had been illegal in the mother country for years, in the 1660's restrictions on slavery were relaxed for the benefit of agriculture in its colonies. Tobacco became such a profitable crop for Virginians that there was a food shortage. Eventually farmers were required by law to grow an acre of corn (any grain-based crop) for each acre of tobacco they cultivated.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Hanover Courthouse, where this event was held.
St. Paul's Parish was established in 1704, and this church was built in 1895.

English agricultural implements of the period, from Mr. Rowan's presentation.