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Hugh Norvell (1669–1719) was an American landowner and elected representative in Virginia. He was called "Captain Hugh Norvell" because of his service in the colonial war. He served as a vestryman at Bruton Parish Church in colonial Williamsburg.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Church activities[edit | edit source]

Norvell was on the Vestry of Bruton Parish Church from 1694 to 1710. While serving in that capacity, he was one of a committee designated by the Vestry to welcome the Rev. Dr. James Blair, President of the College of William and Mary. On December 5, 1710, the Vestry voted to call Blair as their Rector. Hugh Norvell was chairman of this committee. The Rev. Dr. Blair accepted the Vestry's invitation. Norvell was also a member of the committee appointed to oversee the building of the new church. Pew No. 7 in Bruton Parish Church has a plaque honoring Hugh Norvell, Vestryman, 1710-1715, George Norvell, vestryman, and William Norvell, vestryman, 1775. A historical plaque names Hugh Norvell as one of the members of the vestry who erected the church building from 1710-1715.

Civic and political activities[edit | edit source]

Norvell was named as a trustee of the land on which Williamsburg was to be built, under an "Act Directing the Building of the Capitol and the City of Williamsburg" passed by The General Assembly of Virginia on June 7, 1699. One of the clauses of this Act appointed Lewis Burwell, Phil Ludwell, Junr., Benjamin Harrison, Junr., James Waley, Hugh Norwell [Norvell], and Mongo Ingles, Gentleman-Feofees or Trustees for land appropriated to the uses of the City. These gentlemen sold the half-acre lots into which the city had been laid out. Hugh Norwell [Norvell] was still a Feofee or Trustee in 1705 when the Act Directing the Building of the Capitol and the City of Williamsburg with additions was passed.

In 1703 he served on the Grand Jury of the Virginia Admiralty Court and later became a county officer. He is mentioned as a juror in a 1710 trial involving eight Tuscarora Indians. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses about 1719.

Land ownership[edit | edit source]

Norvell's tobacco plantation lay across the York County boundary near Williamsburg; it was noted in a patent from the Virginia Land Office, June 16, 1714, as adjoining the lands of Nicholas Valentine. In James City County he is listed on the quit rent roll of 1704 as owning 328 acres (0.513 sq mi) of land.[1]

Norvell family[edit | edit source]

Norvell appeared as the guardian (prochain ami) of his daughter Elizabeth in a 1694 lawsuit against Mr. Robert Harrison and Mrs. Elizabeth Archer over the payment due to Elizabeth.[Clarification needed]

Captain Hugh Norvell appears to descend from Thomas Norvell, born about 1591 and died in Warwick County, Virginia before August 17, 1635, where he was an original proprietor. Thomas is thought to have married Mary Frye, either the sister or daughter of William Frye of James City County; they lived on Skiff's Creek in 1630.

The Norvells were of Scots origin. Norvell is a shortened form of the name de Normanville. It dates to 1190 when John de Normanville was recorded on a grant of land by Bernard de Hauden. The family coat of arms as described in Burke's General Armory depicts three black martlets (swallows or swifts) on a silver diagonal band across a black shield. In the 17th century there were many spelling variations of the name: NORWELL, NOVELL, NOEL, NORVILL, NEVILL, and NORVELLE; but by the 18th century, it was generally spelled NORVELL.

The earliest Norvell in the New World appears to be William Norvell, who in 1619 had a plantation on land that became Isle of Wight County, Virginia. A plantation called "Oyster Banks" was owned by William Norvell near the boundary of Isle of Wight and Nansemond counties in 1656, when the boundary line between the counties was run. Other early arrivals included: Richard Norvell, 1638; William Norvell, 1639; Peeter Norrell, 1647; Walter Norrell, 1650; Mary Norvell, 1653; in Warwick County; and Thomas Nowell in 1654 in Charles City.

Some of Captain Hugh Norvell's descendants include U.S. Senator John Norvell of Michigan, William Walker, the Filibusterer in Nicaragua; and Oliver Hardy, the actor-comedian and movie star, son of Emily Norvell Hardy.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Today called "McLaws Circle"; located immediately southwest of the intersection of routes 199 and 60. See Grace Norvell, "Maps of Norvell Neighborhoods," Mss1N8296, The Library of Virginia.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Goodwin, William A., The Record of Bruton Parish Church, Richmond, Virginia, 1941.
  • Burton, Francis Harrison, Burton Chronicles of Colonial Virginia, Virginia, 1933.
  • Meyer, Virginia A. and Dorman, John Frederick, Adventurers of Purse and Person Virginia 1607-1624/5
  • Norvell, Grace "James Norvell of Goochland County, Virginia, With Some Indications of His Tidewater Ancestry," Magazine of Virginia, Genealogy, August and November, 1988.
  • Baber, Lucy Harrison William Norvell (1746-1794) of Hanover Co., Va: His Forebears and Descendants, Lynchburg, Virginia, 1992.
  • Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland, New York, 1946.

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