Four Mile Tree in Surry County Virginia is one of the oldest Plantations on the James River. It was established by Colonel Henry Browne (1598-1661). As part of “the Council of State,” he patented acres of the south side of the James River, 2000 acres granted by order of the court dated December 12, 1634, and 250 acres by purchase from Captain William Perry and Captain Thomas Osborne, overseers of the will of John Smith. Also, 2000 acres were granted for the transportation of thirty-two persons by himself and eight acres by his wife Ann Swann (1602-1664). When this grant was renewed on November 1, 1643, 200 more acres were added. These transactions are described as the beginning of Four Mile Tree Plantation. It got this name from Governor Argall in 1619 because it was the farthest limits of Jamestown, Virginia. The tree marking the boundary was 4 miles from the city.
This plantation stayed in the Browne family for over 200 years. Henry and his wife had only one child, a daughter named Mary (1640-1681) who married Colonel William Brown (1638-1705). William’s father Thomas was the brother of Henry making William and Mary first cousins. They went on to have 6 children. 4 daughters. and 2 sons. The plantation was one of Surry County’s more prosperous; its owners served as viewers of tobacco and had slaves from an early period. The Browne’s were regularly Justices of the County Court throughout the colonial period. Several members of the family served on the Governor’s Council or in the House of Burgesses during the seventeenth century. During the War for Independence, William Browne, Colonel William Browne’s Great Grandson, was a member of the Surry Committee of Safety and Lieutenant Colonel of Militia. His son, the last of his name to be Master of Four Mile Tree, was a lieutenant in the revolutionary militia. The British sacked the plantation during the War of 1812 according to the then Colonel of the county militia. In 1815 the plantation passed to William Browne III’s granddaughter, Sally Elizabeth Bowdoin, and her husband, General Philip St. George Cocke. The Cockes lived at Four Mile tree until 1840 when they moved to another plantation, Belmeade, in Powhatan County, Virginia.
Four Mile Tree is “ancient” in its own right having been founded in the first half of the seventeenth century; its gravesite contains the oldest legible tombstone in Virginia (1650).
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