A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

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  Part I-Chapter 2 : Planter  Aristocrats  > The Langhornes  :     Previous  1 - 2 - 3 - 4   Next

   The Langhornes - A First Family of Virginia  
By Thomas Litten

n the year 1666, Captain John Langhorne (1640-1687) the founder of one of Virginia's best-known families came to Warwick County Virginia with his young wife, the former Rebecca Carter of Bristol, England. John Langhorne, a younger son of the wealthy and prominent Laugharne (later to be known as Langhorne) family of St. Brides House, Pembrokeshire, was a nephew of Gen. Rowland Laugharne, who was the commander of King Charles II's forces in South Wales. On December 3, 1665 John Langhorne married Rebecca Carter at Salisbury Cathedral, and soon decided to stake his claim in the New World.

Due to the destruction of a large number of Warwick County records during the Civil War, all that is known of Captain John Langhorne, is that he was a powerful and influential man. Upon his arrival in Virginia,  John Langhorne purchased 1,300 acres from William Whitby, Jr. who was a Burgess for Warwick County. To this he later added 700 acres, which was acquired by a royal grant through the importation of indentured servants. As the most densely populated, and hence the most civilized and desirable county in Virginia, Warwick was an excellent location for John Langhorne to build his fortune. His 2,000-acre plantation was one of the largest in the lower Tidewater region. Among the larger planters of his day,  John Langhorne traded his tobacco directly with the mother country for a hefty profit. He also handled shipments for the smaller planters who could not afford direct trade with England.

By the mid 1670's John Langhorne had been appointed with Col. William Byrd I and Maj. Robert Beverley to fortify the three main rivers of Virginia. The coveted assignment proved to be very lucrative, and over the next several years, the House of Burgesses recorded many payments to John Langhorne, the largest of which amounted to 90,000 pounds of tobacco. At a time when most of the modest Virginia farmers made their living off of little more than 1,000 pounds of tobacco annually, this was an incredible sum. John Langhorne, William Byrd, and Robert Beverley were not soldiers themselves, rather they were assigned to oversee the construction and operation of the essential forts. On the heels of his success with the York River Fort, John Langhorne was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1680, thus establishing a tradition of political service that would characterize his prominent descendents.

The ancestral home of the Langhorne family St. Brides House was once described as the most impressive private home in all of Wales. Accordingly, John Langhorne of Virginia built his family an elegant family seat. This famed colonial home (which burned circa 1818) was overlooking James River along with the primary plantation tract of 2,000 acres and became known as "Gambell".
Capt. John Langhorne died around 1687, leaving his large estate in the capable care of his wife and his good friend Col. Miles Cary II of neighboring Richneck plantation, until his eldest son John Langhorne, Jr. (1666-1688) came of age. John jr. along with the youngest son William Langhorne died early, leaving Maurice Langhorne inherit the entire estate.

This page about the Langhorne family of Virginia was researched and written by Thomas Litten of Richmond, Va. Thank you Thomas, for your kind contribution to A Classification of American Wealth.

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