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Norvell - A Brief History

Early Norvell History

The Norvell family came from Scotland, and it appears it was always a small family, and is seldom listed in listings of family names of Scotland. We do know they were low-landers and farmers. They were also followers of John Calvin, Protestant reformer of the Sixteenth Century, Vestrymen of the early Presbyterian Church, and followed the belief and practice of a very stern moral code.

The low-landers suffered much from the raids of the highlanders of Scotland. They also suffered for being Protestants in a Catholic Scotland, and as a result, their loyalty was with the Kings and Queens of England instead of their native Scotland. Sometime in the late Sixteenth or early Seventeenth Century, the family was forced to flee to England. They eventually became a part of the early group that settled the Colony Virginia in the New World.

One of the first Norvells or (Nowell) to come to the New World, was Thomas, born 1591 and died circa 1635. He came to America onboard the ship named the Margaret and John on January 24, 1624. Thomas boarded the ship on the Isle of Wight, England and landed in James Cittie (sic) with "6 bushels of corne, 3 pounds of powder, 1 peece, 1 armour, and 1 sword". Another early written record of the Norvells in the New World is in 1637. We know they were there much earlier, probably as early 1617, but they first appear in the written record in 1637 as owning a plantation in Warrosquyouke County, (now the Isle of Wight County), Virginia. Their plantation was located just south of Lawne’s Creek on the James River. This is about fifteen miles south of the present day restored Colonial Williamsburg. They were already active in the church at Williamsburg.

In 1710, Captain Hugh Norvell, Sr. (my seventh (7th) grandfather — Hugh Norvell, Sr., Hugh Norvell, Jr., James Norvell, David Norvell, Alexander Smith Norvell, Dr. James Knox Ladd Norvell, Wallace Waldo Norvell, Edd Paschal Norvell, Sr., Doris Jean Norvell Tharp, David Lynn Tharp) and eleven others founded the Bruton Parish Church at Williamsburg. Captain Hugh Norvell was a prominent citizen of Williamsburg and played a major role in the layout and design of the community. The church has remained in active use as a house of worship since then. A mural tablet on the north wall of the church honors Hugh and his fellow founders. Pew #7 in the church has the vestryman service of Hugh, his son George and his grandson William inscribed on the door to the pew. Pew #7 was the Norvell pew in the present church. In the old 1683 church on the same site, the Norvell family sat in Pew #21, so they had advanced in stature over the years. One of the longtime family stories of the past was that the Norvell family long boasted that the Norvell pew at the Bruton Parish Church was directly behind that of George Washington and his family. It ended up the other way around. The Norvells were part of the elite of Williamsburg, while George was just a common Virginia planter at the time, so the Norvells sat at the front of the church and poor George and his family did not rate a private pew, and had to sit at the back of the church with rest of the common folks.

In Scotland, the Norvells had been the outsiders looking in. In Virginia, they were the insiders. Willian Norvell was member of the Virginia House of Burgess before the American Revolutionary War, then a member of the Virginia Legislature after independence was declared. William was one of the leaders in the battle for American independence, but for reasons unknown, records of his role have been lost

Linked toAdventurers of Purse and Person Virginia 1607-1624/5; History of the Norvell and Related Families

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