Submitted by FHMaster on Sun, 12/18/2016 - 11:31

Berkeley Plantation, one of the first great estates in America, comprises about 1,000 acres (400 ha) on the banks of the James River on State Route 5 in Charles City County, Virginia. Berkeley Plantation was originally called Berkeley Hundred and named after the Berkeley Company of England. Benjamin Harrison IV built on the estate what is believed to be the oldest three-story brick mansion in Virginia and is the ancestral home to two Presidents of the United States: William Henry Harrison, his grandson, and Benjamin Harrison his great-great-grandson. It is now a museum property, open to the public.

On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred, about 8,000 acres (32 km2) on the north bank of the James River near Herring Creek in an area then known as Charles Cittie (sic). It was named for one of the original founders, Richard Berkeley,[citation needed] a member of the Berkeley family of Gloucestershire, England. It was about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, where the first permanent settlement of the Colony of Virginia was established on May 14, 1607.

The group's London Company charter required that the day of arrival be observed as a "day of thanksgiving" to God. On that first day, Captain John Woodleaf helda service pursuant to the charter which specified, "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."

During the Indian Massacre of 1622, nine of the settlers at Berkeley Hundred were killed, as well as about a third of the entire population of the Virginia Colony. The Berkeley Hundred site and other outlying locations were abandoned as the colonists withdrew to Jamestown and other more secure points

After several years, the site became Berkeley Plantation and was long the traditional home of the Harrison family, one of the First Families of Virginia. In 1634, it became part of the first eight shires of Virginia, as Charles City County, one of the oldest in the United States, and is located along Virginia State Route 5, which runs parallel to the river's northern borders past sites of many of the James River Plantations between the colonial capital city of Williamsburg (now the site of Colonial Williamsburg) and the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia at Richmond.

Berkeley plantation harrison home.jpg

In 1726, Benjamin Harrison IV built a three story brick mansion on a hill overlooking the James River. The bricks were fired on the plantation. That same year, Benjamin Harrison V, the future signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born at the family seat. Harrison V attended the College of William and Mary but did not graduate due to the death of his father, Harrison IV, in 1745. Shortly after Harrison V married Elizabeth Basset. In 1749, Harrison V was elected to the House of Burgesses and served until 1755. He also served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1774 to October 1777. He was a member of the Virginia conventions of 1775 and 1776 and the House of Delegates from 1776-1781 and 1784-1791. Harrison V was elected governor of Virginia in November 1781 and was reelected twice. Harrison V died on April 24, 1791 and was buried in the family cemetery near the brick home.

In 1781, Benedict Arnold looted Berkeley Plantation. Sometime between 1790 and 1800, the mansion was architecturally altered from a Georgian style to an Adam style. By 1862, Berkeley Plantation was known as Harrison's Landing. It regained its prominence after the Union Army withdrew from the Potomac River following the Battle of Malvern Hill. The plantation served as a supply center from the Union Army. While stationed at Berkeley, General Daniel Butterfield created Taps, one of the most recognized and revered bugle calls in the nation. It was originally meant as a tranquil signal to extinguish the camp lights, but it developed into a solemn tribute to honor the sacrifice and service of the nation's fallen.

Berkeley Plantation is also the birthplace of President William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) and his great grandson President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901).


Charles City
37°19′18″N 77°10′54″W
Benjamin Harrison IV
8 mi. W of Charles City, Charles City County, Virginia
NRHP Ref Number