In The Beginning


Jamestown Island

Movies in the past have often shown characters that were touched by famous people: Woody Allen in Zelig in 1983 or Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump in 1994. Yet sometimes, the truth is often more fantastic than anything Hollywood can devise.

And this is where it all began at Jamestown Island, Virginia about 1650. Jamestown Island today is a relatively well-manicured park where tourists can visit the remains of the original settlement. Yet, if one looks behind the reconstructed area, the essential wildness of the place is still visible: Swamp, wooded thickets, which coupled with the hot, humid air of the Virginia summer must have been unbearable at first to the English settlers. And this indeed is where it all began.

Sometime before 1660 the Norvell family arrived in Virginia. The records are now lost. There are several Norvells (Nowells) on the early manifests. The name could easily be confused as Norvell in script often looked like Nowell.

A John Norvell or Nowell arrived on Ship Margaret and John in 1624 and was a principal of the company – according to Land Grants in Virginia 1607-1699, initial grants were made for each principal and then additional acreage could be purchased for 12 pounds for 50 acres. John Norvell arrived and disappeared almost as quickly as he came. Most likely he was a gentleman as other records indicate that he had a firearm. Other early arrivals included George Norvell, Thomas Norvell, Lydia Norvell, a widow of a John Norvell who died before 1665.

Who these people were is not known. Why they came is. Virginia drew them as later generations would be drawn to Ellis Island: for advancement, for land, for the ability to worship as they chose, and to be free of the Old World.

Where they would go and what these Norvells would do will later be seen.


About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in Colonial History, Family History, Genealogy, Norvell Family History, Social History, Virginia History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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