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Tuesday, 6 March 2018

John Potts, AM, MD, Governor of Virginia; Dr. John Pott(s), from Cheshire to Virginia


John Potts (or Pott) was a physician and Colonial Governor of Virginia at the Jamestown Settlement settlement in the Virginia Colony in the early 17th century (Wikipedia).

"Well practised in Chirurgerie and Physique, and expert allso in distillinge of waters. Upon his arrival in Virginia, he soon showed a great fondness for company and distilled waters, if George Sandys is to be credited".

It is many years since I visited Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and Bruton Parish Church, when I first became interested in Dr John Potts. The story of his life in Virginia is not a happy one. He had a very mixed reputation. Some facts are disputed. Did he graduate from Oxford or from Cambridge university, for instance?


Photo, Jim Potts

I visited the US Capitol in 2016, and photographed some of the friezes (see below).

Dr. Potts came from Harrop, Cheshire; his parents were called Grace and Henry. Harrop is a hamlet in Rainow township, Prestbury parish, Cheshire, 5 miles NW of Macclesfield, not far from Adlington, Poynton and Prestbury. It is more likely that the surname was spelt Potts in that part of Cheshire.

Different sources provide different dates for the arrival (on board The George) of Dr. Potts and his wife Elizabeth in Jamestown: 1619, 1620, 1621. It was around the time that the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.

Information about Dr. John Potts (Pott) can be found in the following publications:

Virginia Carolorum: The Colony during the Days of Charles the First and Second, 
Edward D. Neill and Nath. Butler,
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jul., 1885), pp.134-166
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

“The first of January, A.D. 1625, found a population of only about twelve hundred persons, one horse, one mare, five hundred hogs, and five hundred neat cattle in the valley of the James River and on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. There was not a public inn, nor was there a church edifice, nor a residence of brick or stone at Jamestown”.

Dr. John Pott: Maligned early patriot, Fred T. Given, Jr., M.D. Norfolk, Virginia  

Dr. John Pott: America's First Physician-Governor and Revolutionary, Charles E. Horton, Jr., and Charles E. Horton, M.D., Associate Dean, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia


Samuel Daniel, from Musophilus, 1599: 

And who, in time, knows whither we may vent
The treasure of our tongue, to what strange shores
This gain of our best glory shall be sent,
T'enrich unknowing nations with our stores?
What worlds in th'yet unformed Occident
May come refined with th'accents that are ours?


Indians Dancing Around A Circle of Posts, John White, circa 1585

Opechancanough, watercolor drawing by John White, 1585

The Chickahominy Become "New Englishmen", 1614



Jamestown Massacre, 1622


Earlier Days in Jamestown:


Pocahontas Saves Captain John Smith in 1608

At the US Capitol, Pocahontas and Captain John Smith:










"He seems to have been outspoken and perhaps boastful, skilled at communication, and convinced of English — and his own — superiority", Frederic W. Gleach, Cornell University.






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