Bookmark and Share

Printer-friendly versionPDF version
Average: 3 (2 votes)


Governor: 1665-1667

by Dennis F. Daniels
Research Branch, NC Office of Archives and History, 2005.

"America septentrionalis," was published about the time of Governor Drummond's leadership. Click the image for a larger version.William Drummond (ca. 1620-1677), first governor of Albemarle County, was given the responsibility by the Lords Proprietors to establish a government. He proved to be a capable leader whose efforts laid the foundation for representative government in North Carolina. Born and educated in Scotland, Drummond settled in Virginia as an indentured servant to Theodore Moye in 1637 and later to Stephen Webb in 1639. He was not a docile servant becoming involved in a plan with other indentured servants to run away; however, the plan was a failure. For his role, Drummond received a public flogging and an extension of his servitude by a year.

Drummond greatly improved his position in Virginia society by the 1650s. He became a large landholder, a prosperous attorney, and evidently a merchant. He also served as a justice of the peace and the high sheriff of James City County. In the early 1650s, Drummond married Sarah Prescott; they had at least five children. The Lords Proprietors commissioned Drummond as the first governor of Albemarle County in December 1664. Proprietor and Virginia Governor William Berkeley apparently was influential in securing the position for Drummond because of their friendship.

The Lords Proprietors furnished Drummond with instructions to create a government composed of a council and an assembly that had authority over 1600 square miles. Drummond wasted little time in establishing a functioning government. The first assembly convened by June 1665. Among its first actions was the issuance of a petition to the Lords Proprietors requesting a liberalization of the land policies.

The first governor of Albemarle County provided competent leadership for the developing colony. Drummond proposed new land policies to the Lords Proprietors because he felt the existing policies discouraged new settlers and forced current ones to leave. The proprietors, however, did not act upon his proposal. Drummond worked to settle the boundary problem between Albemarle and Virginia. Following attacks by Tuscarora Indians on Chowan River settlements in 1666, Drummond mobilized the colony for possible war. The troubles were settled before the fighting spread. He negotiated an intercolonial agreement with Virginia and Maryland to stop the planting of tobacco from February 1667 to February 1668. The hope was that, by stopping the planting of tobacco for a year, prices for the commodity would rise. However, Maryland pulled out of the plan causing it to fail. During his governorship, Drummond’s friendship with Berkeley deteriorated. He openly accused Berkeley of trying to hurt the development of Carolina. The animosity between the two apparently started over a dispute regarding land leases in Virginia.

Drummond’s term as governor ended in 1667. He returned to his Virginia plantation and remained active in business affairs. In 1676 Drummond joined with Nathaniel Bacon in the rebellion against the government of Governor Berkeley. After the defeat of Bacon’s followers, Berkeley’s army captured Drummond on January 14, 1677. Six days later, he appeared before a court martial board charged with treason and rebellion against the king. Drummond was found guilty and was hanged that same day.

References and additional resources:

Butler, Lindley S. 1969. The governors of Albemarle County 1663-1689. North Carolina historical review. 46 (3): 281-299.

Paschal, Herbert Richard. 1979. Proprietary North Carolina a study in colonial government. Thesis--University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Powell, William Stevens. 1986. Dictionary of North Carolina biography. Vol. 2, D-G. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Raimo, John. 1980. Biographical directory of American colonial and Revolutionary governors, 1607-1789. Westport, Ct: Meckler Books.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 2008. Colonial and state records of North Carolina. [Chapel Hill, N.C.]: University Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Washburn, Wilcomb E. 1956. The humble petition of Sarah Drummond. The William and Mary Quarterly: A Magazine of Early American History. 13 (3): 354-375.

WorldCat (Searches numerous library catalogs)

Image Credits:

Nicolas Sanson, America septentrionalis, ID: Cm912 1679s. North Carolina Maps.,32.



Hello! I am a descendant of William Drummond (ca. 1620-1677), first governor of Albemarle County. I currently live in South Florida and am planning an ancestry journey to take place the first week of October. I am driving up to Valley Forge, PA to attend a family wedding. After the wedding, I plan on discovering the paths my ancestors once walked. If at all possible, could you point me in any direction, if there are any landmarks or historic signs that may still hold the Drummond name? I greatly appreciate any time and effort put into helping me with this journey. I am already touring Bacon's Castle in Virginia and also Lake Drummond. There are hundreds of sites, but to be quite honest with you, it can get quite confusing. So much information to absorb all at once.
Respectfully yours,


Dear Christine,


Thank you for visiting NCpedia and taking time to share your history and question.

That is a very good question.  I believe that you will likely find more specific locations in Virginia since he would have spent more time in Virginia.  As the earliest of the region’s – the Albemarle’s – first proprietary governors, Drummond did convene the first legislative body organized in Carolina near present day Elizabeth City in Pasquotank County in 1665.  This area would have been one of the earliest places of colonial settlement, although the area that is now North Carolina was more a less a wilderness in the mid-17th century. I don’t believe that there are any buildings that are associated with his presence.  Although, you might enjoy visiting that area for its colonial history, particularly in association with the Dismal Swamp and its canals.  I believe that Lake Drummond, the freshwater lake on the Virginia side of the Dismal Swamp, was named after Drummond.

You may also find some useful information in the resources included with the NCpedia article your visited.  Here are additional search results for NCpedia entries that are about or mention William Drummond:

Good luck with your trip and best wishes.  And please let me know if I can help with anything else.

Kelly Agan

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. Complete guidelines are available at

Grey Squirrel - Click me to return to the top of the page