John Harvey

President and Acting Governor of Albemarle County - 1679 to 1680

John Harvey, the son of Thomas and Mary Harvey, was probably born in Warwickshire, England. His family immigrated to Virginia around 1640. In the 1650s, John Harvey married Dorothy Took, daughter of James Took of Isle of Wight County, Virginia. By 1659, Harvey was living in the region that eventually became Albemarle County making him one of the earliest permanent English settlers in North Carolina.

In September of 1663, John Harvey received 850 acres of land situated between the Perquimans and Yeopim Rivers from Virginia Governor William Berkeley for bringing seventeen settlers to Virginia. The peninsula became known as "Harveys Neck.” He eventually sold 250 acres but maintained a 600-acre plantation to support his livestock.

John Harvey began his political career in Albemarle County, as a member of Governor Samuel Stephen’s Executive Council and remained on the Council until 1676 serving under Governor Peter Carteret and President John Jenkins. In April of 1672, the Executive Council selected John Harvey to accompany Gov. Carteret to London for a meeting with the Lords Proprietors to resolve problems in Albemarle Coounty. Harvey followed Carteret as far as New York, but events back home forced him to return to Albemarle.

During the 1670s, Albemarle County was torn with dissension between the anti-proprietary and proprietary factions. The anti-proprietary faction included pre-charter settlers who feared and disliked the policies of the Lords Proprietors. John Harvey served as a leader in the anti-proprietary faction. The tensions between the factions led to Culpeper’s Rebellion that resulted in the anti-proprietary faction overthrowing the proprietary government of Thomas Miller. John Harvey’s participation in the rebellion was limited to the fact that he took Albemarle County Provost Marshall Edward Wade as a prisoner early in the uprising. He did not serve in the rebel government that controlled Albemarle County for another year and a half.

The Lords Proprietors sought to re-establish the government in Albemarle County. In 1678, the Lords Proprietors appointed Seth Sothel, one of their own new Lords Proprietors, as governor. However, Sothel was captured and imprisoned by Algerian pirates while en route to Albemarle County. On February 5, 1679, the Lords Proprietors commissioned John Harvey to serve as President of the Executive Council and Acting Governor until Seth Sothel arrived in Albemarle. Because of the slow communication, John Harvey did not receive his commission until July of that year. The Lords Proprietors evidently chose Harvey because he was not a major participant in the rebellion and satisfactory to the rebel council. As an individual, John Harvey was trusted and respected by most of the colonists.

The Lords Proprietors provided President John Harvey and his Executive Council with a temporary governing plan based upon the Fundamental Constitutions and with land policies more acceptable to the earliest settlers. In November of 1679, the Albemarle County General Assembly enacted laws to bring order to the colony. In that same month, President Harvey showed his continuing support for the anti-proprietary faction by presiding over the Executive Council as indictments were brought against Thomas Miller. By January of 1679/80, John Harvey was dead and the colony was once again in need of a governor.

On 5 February 1679 the Lords Proprietors appointed John Harvey as President of the Executive Council to act as governor of Albemarle County until the arrival of Seth Sothel, a proprietor who had been sent to be governor but was captured en route by Algerian pirates and was still their prisoner. The instructions given Harvey were much the same as those sent to previous governors. Click Here to read the Lords Proprietors' Instructions to President John Harvey.
John Harvey, whom the Lords Proprietors had appointed President of the Executive Council, and after him Wilkinson and Jenkins, who held appointment for brief terms as governors, were able meanwhile to carry on the government peacefully. From the spring 1672 departure of Governor Peter Carteret until the arrival of the commission of President of the Executive Council for John Harvey in July of 1679, the Lords Proprietors were not in control of Albemarle County either in theory or in practice.
John Harvey was quietly installed as Acting Governor until Seth Sothel, one of the Lords Proprietors, should come to take up the reins of government himself.
Click Here for what little is known about the Executive Council under President John Harvey.
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