Robert Beverley emigrated from Yorkshire to Virginia in
1663, and since the surname Beverley is frequently encountered in Yorkshire it
has not been possible to determine with certainty his town of origin. While it is
possible that he had been married and had lost a first wife in England, in 1666
he married Mary, the widow of a Virginia planter, George Keeble of Lancaster.
Together they had three sons and a daughter before Mary died in June 1678. Ten
months after Mary's death, Robert married again, this time Catharine Hone, widow
of Theophilus Hone of James City County, with whom he had four sons and a
Upon arriving he settled in Middlesex County and soon became prominent in local
affairs. He was elected Clerk of the House of Burgesses in 1670 and was a
Justice of Middlesex County by 1673. In his own words written in 1683 he said
"From the year 1668 to the year 1676, I served his Majesty in military and civil
offices of trust with fidelity and approbation.
In 1676 with the occurrence of Bacon's Rebellion, Robert Beverley assumed a
highly visible role in restoring order in the colony. He was cited by name in
one of Bacon's early proclamations as a wicked councillor of the Governor.
Subsequent to the burning of Jamestown, the flight of Governor Berkeley to the
Eastern Shore, and the death in October 1676 of Bacon due to fever, Beverley was
charged by Berkeley with suppressing the insurgents. He captured a number of the
rebel leaders very quickly, and in November 1676 was commissioned by Governor
Berkeley to be commander of all his forces. This commission praising his
loyalty, circumspection and courage contains the earliest surviving record of
the use of Beverley's title of Major.
With the rebellion subdued, Beverley was closely identified with the Governor
whose ruthlessness had very much polarized the colony. Beverley was appointed by
Governor Berkeley to the council and then elected Clerk of the House of
Burgesses, which he helped influence to support the Governor against the
commissioners sent to investigate his actions at the rebellion's end. When, in
April 1677, the commissioners directed Beverley as Clerk to give them the
Journals of the House of Burgesses, he refused to do so without the consent of
that body. The commissioners seized the records, but reported his conduct to
England causing the king much anger. In 1679 the Privy Council ordered Beverley
put out of all offices he held in the colony. The new governor, Lord Culpeper,
decided that he would not alienate the House by removing him as he had just been
elected Clerk again and by letter had the Privy Council revoke the order.
the spring of 1682 dissatisfaction arose over the low price of tobacco due to a
glut on the market. When efforts to legislate a constraint on tobacco planting
failed, a number of persons cut down tobacco plants in Gloucester County. As
Beverley had been a leader in calling for a cessation in planting, and
the government feared anything similar to a rebellion, he was arrested and
imprisoned aboard a ship. In response to letters to London, the king ordered in
June 1682 that Beverley be put out of all his employment: Clerk of the House,
attorney, surveyor and deputy auditor general.
In a complicated sequence of events he escaped and went home, was confined
again, charged with many petty offenses, and finally released on a year's
probation. When the "plant cutters" were pardoned, Beverley by name was one of
those excepted. After a year's quiet and an abject apology to the Council, he
was finally pardoned whereupon he was again elected Clerk of the House. When the
new governor, Lord Howard of Effingham, demanded of the House authority to lay a
new tax there was renewed conflict. James II, frustrated and perceiving Beverley
to be a leader in opposition, directed on August 1, 1686 that he be declared
incapable of holding any office in the colony. Beverley's old friend Philip Ludwell then arranged that his oldest son, Peter, be given his father's place as
surveyor. Robert Beverley died in 1687, in the opinion of many due to these
persecutions. Many of his sons were very prominent in later years.
"Robert Beverley and His
Descendants", Virginia Magazine
and Biography, Vol 2, p405
"The Beverley Family of Virginia", by John McGill; R L Bryan Co, Columbia, SC,