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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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It happened here

imageOn December 16, 1773, a group of Boston colonists dressed as Indians went aboard three British ships and threw tea in Boston Harbor in an act of resistance to the Tea Act—a tax on tea.

The Tea Act was passed by British Parliament in 1773. The act infuriated American colonists because they felt they were being “taxed without representation.”

Although the Boston Tea Party is a well-known event in American history, a similar, but not as well-known act of resistance took place in November of 1774 when a British merchant ship belonging to London merchant John Norton sailed into the York River with a small quantity of tea and other provisions. (The York River is the border between York and Gloucester counties.)

By then the Continental Association had been formed and it called for all counties in the colony to create a committee to “observe the conduct of all persons touching this Association.” The job of county committees was to flush out and identify those unwilling to embrace the American cause. One of the rules was “no purchase of British tea.”

Upon learning of tea aboard a British ship on the York River, the Gloucester County Committee assembled on November 7, 1774, to determine how to dispose of the tea. The committee determined that Norton “has lent his little aid to the ministry for enslaving Americans and been guilty of a daring insult upon the people of this colony” by sending tea to the colonies in his ship.

The York County Committee then took the matter into its own hands. Committee members staged their own Yorktown Tea Party. They went aboard Norton’s ship and threw two half chests of tea into the York River. They left the boat without any further damage, but made their message clear to England—no taxation without representation.

Other British ships continued to be watched by county committees. On May 25, 1775, a ship captained by Moses Robinson came under the scrutiny of the Middlesex County Committee. Urbanna merchants James Mills and George Lorimer were accused of being involved in off-loading illegal goods from Moses’ ship in Urbanna Creek by “the light of the moon.” Mills and Lorimer were found not guilty but were forever under the watchful eyes of those on the side of American independence.

It happened right here in Rivah country.

posted 07.23.2010

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