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The Tidewater Gentry

The Tidewater Gentry


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These Virginian aristocrats got their name from an area. It lies between Chesapeake Bay's western shore and the Fall Line. The Tidewater is traversed by the James, Potomac, Rappahannock and York rivers, and their tidal estuaries.Jamestown was the original and most important Tidewater settlement. After many vicissitudes, its leaders found a viable economy in the cultivation of tobacco.When the frontier moved west off the Tidewater in the mid-1600s, English gentry took over. These tobacco plantation owners used their capital to shift from importing indentured servants to importing slaves as their primary means of production. As a result, they became quite wealthy.By 1700, a class of approximately five percent of the population, the "First Families of Virginia" or Cavaliers, had dominated the colony's politics and economy. By the 1730s, many were made of brick.


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