The Early History of Gloucester Point
"I made a draughte of our river?by us discovered."
Robert Tyndall to Henry, Prince of Wales
In 1600, this tidewater land was part of a vast American Indian empire ruled by the Powhatan nation. English mariner and mapmaker Robert Tyndall found a narrow entrance to the York River in 1608. He was exploring the new Virginia Colony with John Smith and Christopher Newport. Tyndall sent a map back to England, calling these narrows "Tendales fronte." John Smith changed the name to ?Tendales Poynt" when he printed his famous Chesapeake map in 1624.
Strategic Tyndall's Point soon attracted interest. Tobacco plantations sprang up throughout the area. The colonial government built a tobacco warehouse at the Point to serve local planters shipping their crops to England. The first fort was erected here during a 1667 invasion scare from the powerful, seagoing Dutch.
As Gloucester became an established town in 1680, maritime wars continued with the Dutch, Spanish and French. The fort, with ten foot high dirt walls faced with brick, had fifteen cannon by 1711. In addition to threatened foreign invasions, pirates terrorized shipping and two were hung here in 1719. Over time, the defenses were neglected and often in poor condition.
(sidebar)What's in a Name?
Virginians waited over 250 years to officially name their Point "Gloucester." Robert Tyndall noticed the Point in 1608 and put his name on it. The English built the first fort here in 1667 and named it for King James II. In the 1860s, Union forces named their camp and fort located here Gilpin and Keyes. By the late 1800s, Gloucester Point finally joined the county and town named for Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the third son of King Charles I.