Temperance Flowerdew

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Temperance Flowerdew (1590 – 1628)[1][2] was an early settler of the Jamestown Colony and a key member of the Flowerdew family, significant participants in the history of Jamestown. Temperance Flowerdew was wife of two Governors of Virginia, sister of another early colonist,[3] aunt to a representative at the first General Assembly[4] and "cousin-german" (first cousin) to the Secretary to the Colony.[5]

Flowerdew was one of the few survivors of the brutal winter of 1609–10, known as the "Starving Time", which killed almost ninety percent of Jamestown's inhabitants. Later, upon the death of her second husband, George Yeardley, Flowerdew became one of the wealthiest women in Virginia.[6] Upon her death, the estate was transferred to her children despite the efforts of her third husband to claim it,[6][7] she appears on the periphery of many historical events that occurred during the period.

Origins and first marriage[edit]

Temperance Flowerdew was the daughter of Anthony Flowerdew, of Hethersett, Norfolk, and his wife Martha Stanley, of Scottow, County Norfolk.[8] She married Richard Barrow on April 29, 1609 at St Gregory by St Paul's, London.[1][9]

Tempestuous sea voyage[edit]

Now Mrs Barrow, she sailed for Jamestown aboard the Falcon, commanded by Captain John Martin,[10] in May 1609[2] in a convoy of nine ships as part of the Virginia Company of London's Third Supply Mission. Whether she was accompanied by her husband is not of record, the flagship of the convoy, the Sea Venture, had the new leaders for Jamestown aboard, including George Yeardley.[2] During the trip, the convoy encountered a severe storm which was quite likely a hurricane,[2] the Sea Venture became separated from the rest of the convoy, ultimately coming aground on the island of Bermuda,[2] where it was stranded for months. The Falcon continued on, reaching Jamestown in August 1609.[1]

Arrival in Jamestown[edit]

Temperance Barrow arrived in Jamestown just before the winter of the Starving Time,[2][11] an extraordinarily harsh winter which the majority of townspeople did not survive. As provisions grew scarce, some thirty colonists tried to steal corn from Powhatan, but most of the men were slain during the attempt, only two escaping,[10] the "common stores that should have kept all of the colonists through the winter"[10] were instead "severely reduced by Indian raids and consumed by the commanders".[10] The colonists subsisted on roots, herbs, acorns, berries, and fish. By the end of the winter, the five hundred English who had been left in Virginia only numbered about sixty.[10]

In May 1610, the survivors of the Sea Venture finally arrived, in two smaller ships constructed from its wreckage,[2] the newcomers were "shocked to discover the state of the colony".[10] Sir Thomas Gates took control as the new Lieutenant-Governor and decided to abandon the town, they loaded the survivors on the ships and headed down river.[10] The next morning, they encountered a long-boat with dispatches from Lord De La Warr, he had just arrived with three ships, loaded with supplies for Jamestown. They all returned up the river, back to Jamestown, on the same day, and Lord De La Warr arrived two days later.[10]

Marriage to George Yeardley[edit]

By 1618, Richard Barrow had died, and Temperance married George Yeardley, the couple had three children, Elizabeth (c. 1614), Argoll (1618) and Francis (1623).[1][12]

George Yeardley was appointed Deputy Governor by Sir Thomas Dale in April 1616.[8] Deputy-Governor Yeardley secured a peace with the Chickahominy Tribe[2] that made it possible for the colonists to trade with them and live in peace for the next two years. Yeardley's term ended in 1617.[2] When the Yeardleys returned to England in 1617,[13] Yeardley was knighted[2][8][11] by King James I and appointed Governor of Virginia.[2][8] George Yeardley remained Governor until 1621.[10]

Witness to John Rolfe's will[edit]

In 1622, Temperance Yeardley witnessed the will of John Rolfe, a fellow native of Norfolk, the other witnesses were Richard Buck (also from Norfolk)[14] John Cartwright, Robert Davie, and John Milwards.[15]

Flowerdew Hundred[edit]

Following his appointment as Governor, Yeardley received a patent grant (now lost) of 1,000 acres (4.0 km2), known as Flowerdew Hundred Plantation. There are conflicting stories regarding the naming of this land, it may have been named by the previous owner, Temperance's brother Stanley Flowerdew, or it may have been named by Yeardley in honor of his wife's wealthy father. The second possibility is perhaps more likely, since Yeardley named another plantation after his wife's equally wealthy mother,[16] among their many crops, the Yeardleys grew tobacco which they then sent to England to sell.[11] There is doubt whether the Yeardleys ever lived at Flowerdew Hundred, however;[17] in the 1624/5 Muster, the family was shown as living in Jamestown.[18]

In 1624, Yeardley sold Flowerdew Hundred to Abraham Piersey, and the deed from that sale is said to be the oldest in America.[6][19]

Marriage to Francis West; death[edit]

Yeardley died on November 13, 1627,[2] on March 31, 1628, Flowerdew married his successor, Governor Francis West.[2][8][20]

Flowerdew died in December[20] of the same year, leaving her three children, aged 5, 10, and 14, as orphans. Upon her death, the estate she had inherited from Yeardley was divided among their three children. George Yeardley's brother, Ralph Yeardley, became trustee for the property. Governor West went to London to contest the will, but failed in the effort.[7]

Flowerdew was named one of the Virginia Women in History by the Library of Virginia in 2018.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d Dorman, John Frederick, Adventurers of Purse and Person, 4th ed., v.3, pp861-872
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Biography of Temperance Flowerdew by Nancy LeSourd, Liberty Letters website, accessed July 12, 2010
  3. ^ "Although George Yeardley acquired the thousand acres that he named Flowerdew Hundred in 1619, it seems very likely that some settlement had begun there before that date, for his brother-in-law Stanley Flowerdew took a shipment of tobacco to England in the same year, probably grown on the same property." Flowerdew Hundred: the archaeology of a Virginia Plantation by James Deetz, p. 19
  4. ^ Ensign Edmund Rossingham, son of Temperance's sister Mary, represented Flowerdew Hundred in the first General Assembly in 1619. Southall, James P.C., "Concerning George Yardley and Temperance Flowerdew", William and Mary Quarterly, Jul 1947
  5. ^ Charlotte Fell-Smith, ‘Pory, John (bap. 1572, d. 1636?)’, rev. David R. Ransome, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 accessed 28 Sept 2011
  6. ^ a b c Donaldson, Evelyn Kinder. "Squires and Dames of Old Virginia, 1950" p. 21 Los Angeles, Calif: Miller Print Co., 1950
  7. ^ a b Sturtz, Linda, Within Her Power: Propertied Women in Colonial Virginia, New York: Routledge (2002) p.24
  8. ^ a b c d e R. C. D. Baldwin, ‘Yeardley, Sir George (bap. 1588, d. 1627)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 28 Sept 2011
  9. ^ Parish records of St Gregory by St Paul, extracted for the Genealogical Department of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Batch M054261
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Campbell, Charles. "History of the Colony and Ancient Dominion of Virginia 1860" Spartanburg, S.C.:Reprint Co. 1860
  11. ^ a b c Jamestown Colony 1609 Jamestown Colony, 1609 website, accessed July 12, 2010
  12. ^ There are varying theories about the year of her marriage to Yeardley. The eldest child, Elizabeth, is shown in the 1624/5 Muster as aged 6 and therefore born around 1618.
  13. ^ Southall, James P.C., "Concerning George Yardley and Temperance Flowerdew", William and Mary Quarterly, Jul 1947
  14. ^ "Archaeological Excavations at 44JC568, The Reverend Richard Buck Site"[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Colonial Surry, John Bennett Boddie, p.63
  16. ^ Stanley Hundred on Mulberry Island
  17. ^ Deetz, James, Flowerdew Hundred: Archaeology of a Virginia Plantation, 1619-1864, p.20
  18. ^ Dorman, John Frederick, Adventurers of Purse and Person, 4th ed., v.1, p.3
  19. ^ Merrill, Eleanor Brown. "A Virginia Heritage, 1968" p. 53 Richmond, Va:Press of Whittet & Shepperson, 1968
  20. ^ a b Dorman, John Frederick, Adventurers of Purse and Person, 4th ed., v.3, p.427
  21. ^ "Virginia Women in History 2018 Temperance Flowerdew Yeardley". www.lva.virginia.gov. Retrieved March 15, 2018. 


  • Athearn, Robert G. The New World: American Heritage New Illustrated History of the United States, Volume 1. Dell Publishing Co., Inc., New York, 1963.
  • Collins, Gail. America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2003.

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