The area which became Williamsburg was settled in 1632 and called Middle Plantation. It was so named due to its location on high ground about half-way across the Virginia Peninsula between the James River and York River. A stockade across the peninsula, which was about 6 miles wide at that point between College Creek and Queen's Creek (which each fed into one of the two rivers) provided some security from attacks by the Native Americans for colonists farming and fishing lower on the Peninsula from that point.
The area of Middle Plantation was included in James City Shire when it was established 2 years later in 1634, as the Colony reached a total population of approximately 5,000. (James City Shire changed its name and became known as James City County). Jamestown, which had been the original capital of Virginia Colony, remained as such until its burning during the events of Bacon's Rebellion in 1676. Immediately after Governor William Berkeley regained control, temporary quarters for the functions of the seat of government were established about 12 miles away on the high ground at Middle Plantation while the Statehouse at Jamestown was rebuilt. The Burgesses found the surroundings both safer and more pleasant environmentally than Jamestown, which was muggy and plagued with mosquitos.
A school of higher education had long been an aspiration of the colonists. An early attempt at Henricus failed after the Indian Massacre of 1622. The location at the outskirts of the developed part of the colony had left it more vulnerable to the attack. In the 1690s, the colonists tried again and sent Reverend James Blair who spent several years in England lobbying and finally obtained a royal charter for the desired new school, which was named the College of William and Mary in honor of the monarchs of the time. When Reverend Blair returned to Virginia, the new school was founded in a safe place, Middle Plantation in 1693. Classes began in temporary quarters in 1694, and the College Building, a precursor to the Wren Building, was soon under construction.
Four years later, the rebuilt statehouse in Jamestown burned again (in 1698), this time accidentally. The government once again relocated temporarily to Middle Plantation, but now enjoyed use of the College's facilities in addition to the better climate. After that fire, upon suggestion of the students of the College, who made a presentation to the House of Burgesses, the colonial capital was permanently moved to Middle Plantation in 1699. A village was laid out and Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg in honor of King William III of England, befitting the town's newly elevated status.
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