“Wee woulde vouchsafe unto them our licence to make habitacion, plantacion and to deduce a colonie of sondrie of our people into that parte of America commonly called Virginia.”
“They shall have all the landes, woods, soile, groundes, havens, ports, rivers, mines, mineralls, marshes, waters, fishinges, commodities and hereditamentes whatsoever.”
— First Virginia Charter
In 1606, desirous of establishing colonies in the New World and exploiting the territory for profit to the Crown, King James I of England gave exclusive rights to settle, farm and hunt in what is now nearly all of the eastern U.S. seaboard to two entities — the Plymouth Company and the Virginia Company of London.
The Plymouth Company had exclusive rights from the 41st parallel north to what is now southern Canada. The Virginia Company had similar rights from the 38th parallel south into what is now North Carolina. From the 38th parallel to the 41st, both companies could operate, though they were barred from establishing operations within 100 miles of each other.
Each of the companies had a charter from the King himself. Those charters established all of the rules, rights and responsibilities that governed those companies and what they were expected to return to the King. Only the King himself could revoke those charters and issue new ones that had different rules.
In order to finance the expeditions to North America, the companies each sought wealthy investors who were promised healthy returns on their investments. A single share in the Virginia Company cost the equivalent of six months wages and thousands of shares were sold. Men and women were then recruited to come to the new world and work for the Virginia and Plymouth companies to earn money for the investors and, in return, for the King.
British governmental authorities had no control over the Virginia Company or how it ran its affairs. In place of the normal means of local governance, the exclusive Charter established a separate “Counsell of thirteen Parsons” (sic) and gave them exclusive authority over “managing and direction onelie of and for all matters that shall or may concerne the govermente, as well of the said severall Colonies.” The members of this counsel were chosen from the stockholders of the Virginia Company.
The exclusive granting of rights to the settling of plantations and growing of crops didn’t work so well. The colonies were poorly managed and the challenge of setting up colonies across the Atlantic was huge. The governing structure was poor but, because it was established by the King and enshrined in the Charter, only the King could change it by issuing a new Charter with different terms.
The King did so in 1609 and then again 1612. Eventually, it became clear that a governor needed to be appointed to manage the affairs of the Virginia Colony. Into that void stepped the largest shareholder of the charter holding Virginia Company, Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr. Though he promoted brutal tactics against Native Americans and died in a 1618 voyage to Virginia, his name was appended to a river, a state, a Native American tribe and (because of that tribe) a county and city in central Ohio.
Thus, a government-granted Charter to an exclusive set of companies to settle territory and farm crops, came to give rise to the name of our county and its seat.