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Washington & Northern Virginia Company -- Biographies of Ancestors of Members
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George Yeardley

George Yeardley was born in Southwark, England, today a part of London, about 1588. His father Ralph was a merchant tailor, and an older brother an apothecary. George, however, went at an early age with the army to the Netherlands to fight against Spain. At the same time that he turned 21 years of age and became an officer, Sir Thomas Gates was being called from the Netherlands by the Virginia Company of London to lead the new colony. Yeardley accepted Gate's offer to have Yeardley accompany him and to be the captain of the governor's guard. Sailing on the Sea Venture Yeardley was among those shipwrecked on Bermuda for eight months, finally arriving in Virginia in May, 1610. Serving both Gates and then his deputy, Thomas Dale, in the same capacity, he was named by Dale on his departure in 1616 to be the acting governor until a new deputy governor arrived.

 

Little specific information of his year as acting governor remains. Probably in reaction to Dale's firm grip he relaxed some controls on the colony, and oversaw the runaway success of the Virginia tobacco crop which went from 2500 pounds in 1616 to 18,839 pounds in 1617. He divided his own time between being governor and being local commander at Bermuda Hundred where he had been assigned under Dale's rule. In May 1617 the new acting governor, Samuel Argall, arrived

and Yeardley returned to London.
    
While in London in October 1618 he learned that Lord De La Warr, Virginia's Govenor for life, had died at sea. Yeardley was then appointed governor and captain general of Virginia, and shortly thereafter he was knighted. Sometime, probably during this period, he married Temperance Flowerdew, daughter of parents from County Norfolk in England and well connected in society.

 
  At this time the Company was planning to liberalize the rule of the colony. Yeardley was given the Great Charter which ended martial law, bringing the colony's laws in line with English common law, and inaugurated individual land patents. With charter in hand Yeardley arrived in Jamestown in April 1619 and by July had convened the first elected General Assembly.
His term as governor brought him into continued crisis in relations with London. The Company believed Virginia needed a population increase and in three years the Company sent over 3500 people.
    
 

    However, the Company was continually short of money, so the new shipments of settlers arrived with no warning, no food and no supplies. The death rate of these new arrivals exceeded 75%. With three years in office nearing completion and feeling the pressure of these unsatisfactory circumstances, Yeardley requested relief, and

Sir Francis Wyatt was named his replacement. He then switched his focus to Southampton Hundred, a particular plantation in which he was an adventurer, and of which he had continued as commander while governor. In response to the first Indian Massacre, he led a number of the counterattacks.
 

 

In 1624 when Virginia became a royal colony he was named to the council, and when Governor Wyatt retired in March 1626, the king named him again as governor of the colony. In November 1627 he died in office and was buried in the church at Jamestown. He was survived by his wife, Temperance, and three children, Elizabeth, Argoll and Francis. He also left an estate valued at about 10,000 pounds which included houses and land on Jamestown Island and 1000 acres of land at Stanley in Warwick River. Temperance was remarried in March 1628 to Governor Francis West but died in December of that year.

References:
1. "Adventurers of Purse and Person, by Virginia M. Meyer and John F. Dorman; Dietz Press Inc Richmond, VA, 3' Edition, 1987, pp 723 729
2. "The Southern Colonies in the Seventeenth Century 1607 1689", by Wesley Frank Craven; LSU Press, 1970
3. "Dissolution of the Virginia Company", by Wesley Frank Craven; Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1932

9 Nov 03