Nottoway plantation

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The Nottoway Plantation or Quarter was a tobacco plantation acquired by the College of William and Mary in 1718 when the General Assembly presented the College with £1000, of which £100 was used to buy 2119 acres “on both sides of Nottoway River” at the then intersection of Prince George, Surry, and Brunswick Counties. The College invested another £476 to buy 17 slaves to raise tobacco there.

In 1777 the College advertised the land for sale or lease (it was leased then until 1802 when it was sold, May 1, to Nathaniel Rives); most of the College’s slaves were sold near the time of the lease, though two men and a boy were returned to Williamsburg to replace hired slaves. Funds from the tobacco were used to support scholarships for the sons of gentry, the Nottoway Foundations; the Nottoway Quarter produced as many as 25 hogsheads (25,000 pounds) of tobacco in a year (Zech).

The Nottoway Quarter has not been mentioned in any of the standard histories of the College and documentation is sparse. Faculty minutes record in 1743 that two of the slaves at the Quarter fled, but fled to Williamsburg to present their dissatisfaction with something at the Quarter to the Faculty. Two professors, Thomas Dawson and John Graeme, were dispatched “to endeavour to put things to rights.” On March 2, 1768 is recorded this resolution: "Resol . that Mr. Withers be appointed the Steward of the College Plantation on Nottoway River & the [sic] he be allowed an annual Salary of £20 [per] Annum for his Trouble: he is desir'd to take an Inventory of the Estate when he enters into his office." In 1773 an expenditure of almost £31 for the Quarter is recorded. The College Bursar’s Books include many entries for the Nottoway tobacco and several for other supplies. One for Dec. 15, 1755 records a payment to the “Nottoway Negroes for Hops” and another, May 5, 1775, for a payment “To Nottoway Quarter for pork, beeves, mutton, & Butter.”

Nottoway Quarter plot

By David L. Jones, May 25, 2011

The precise location of the Quarter came to light in 2011 when Mr. David L. Jones (a professional land surveyor who lives in the area of the Quarter) presented to the Special Collections Research Center copies of contemporary land patents along with the metes and bounds of the plantation as deduced from those patents. The land lay on both sides of the Nottoway River, linked by a ford, and along small rapids still known locally today as the “College Falls.” A nearby “College Road” was given its name in modern times, no doubt based on oral tradition and local lore, but reflective of the actual College Road of the time.

Material in the Special Collections Research Center

  • University Archives Subject File Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary.
  • Faculty Minutes, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary. The earliest volumes have been digitized and beginning with the 1729 volume are available in the W&M Digital Archive. The first volume of minutes of faculty meetings, 1729 to 1784, has been published in the William and Mary Quarterly, and is indexed in the Virginia Historical Index. Microfilm is also available for the minutes from 1729-1945.
  • Alumni Gazette, 30 March 1935, p. 1, 3.
  • Guide for doing research related to the College of William & Mary
  • "So well endowed" : economic support of the College of William and Mary during the colonial period, Kristin A. Zech, Honors Thesis, LD6051 .W5m Hist., 2001, Z42 (does not circulate and is not available for interlibrary loan; contact the Special Collections Research Center for assistance) available in the SCRC
  • Buildings and Grounds--Land Owned Off Campus--Sussex County, University Archives Subject File Collection. Also, Buildings and Grounds--Land Owned Off Campus--Nottoway Quarter in Dinwiddie County, University Archives Subject File Collection.

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Questions? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at or 757-221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at William & Mary.

A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.