Joseph Bridger, Burgess from Isle of Wight County

Joseph Bridger was elected as a Burgess to represent Isle of Wight County in 1658.  Who was this man?

Joseph Bridger, born in 1628 in the Parish of Dursley, England, was the son of Samuel Bridger.  A dedicated Royalist, Bridger came to Virginia about 1655, at a time when those supporting King Charles II in exile in France were fleeing England to escape Cromwellian persecution or possibly death.  He did well in Virginia, and settled below Jamestowne, south of the James River, and probably patented more land than any other resident of Isle of Wight County during the 17th century.  

Bridger was chosen to represent Isle of Wight County in the House of Burgesses in the session of 1658. After 1661, he filled the position without interruption until about 1672.  As a Burgess, he received 250 pounds of tobacco for each day the assembly was in session in Jamestowne.  In 1664, Captain Bridger and two other commissioners were sent to Chesapeake Bay to settle the dispute of a claim by the State of Maryland over a county line.

He attained the rank of colonel in 1672 and in 1673, at the age of 45, became a member of the Council of State and General Court of the aging Virginia governor, Sir William Berkeley.

Bridger was destined to take an active part in a series of historic events in Virginia history.  With the governor’s authorization he formed a 500-man army to fight the Indians who threatened the farmers. But Colonel Bridger never used his militia to protect these farmers because the governor was trading with the Indians for their valuable furs.  Lacking government protection, the farmers became rebellious and allied with Nathaniel Bacon, a dissatisfied member of the governor’s Council.  Berkeley was forced to flee Jamestowne; and Bacon, who named himself “General by consent of the people,” called Joseph Bridger a “wicked and pernicious councilor” for his continued loyalty to the governor and the King of England.  Bridger fled with Berkeley; but Bridger’s son, Joseph Bridger, Jr., cast his lot with Nathaniel Bacon.  Bridger disinherited his son and struck his name from his will in a codicil, perhaps because of their political differences.  

While in exile, Bridger witnessed the governor’s will and was appointed by the King to continue as a member of the Council. Berkeley was instructed to rebuild Jamestowne, burned by Nathaniel Bacon, and asked to have each Council member build a home there.  By 1682, Joseph Bridger’s house was completed, and the Council met in his new home on the afternoon of November 25 that year.

Colonel Bridger’s will was dated 03 August 1683 and probated 08 May 1686 in Isle of Wight County.  In it he named his mother, Mrs. Mary Bridger; his wife, Hester (Pitt) and children: Joseph, Samuel, William, Martha, Mary and Elizabeth. Bridger was buried at his plantation named “Whitemarsh”; but in 1894 his body was moved to the chancel of the Old Brick Church near Smithfield.

First Mississippi Company Descendants of Joseph Bridger: Janice (Joy) Willis Herron, Cynthia Walker Kennedy