Lead: In 1790s Virginia was scandalized by the sensational trial following a story of alleged adultery, murder, and deception involving one of the oldest aristocratic families in the Commonwealth. 

 

                Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

 

                Content: Beginning in the 1650s, a group of planters, emigrants from England began to dominate the Virginia tidewater. Among the earliest of the Virginia gentry were the Byrds, Beverleys, Carters, Masons and Randolphs. These protestant, so-called first families of Virginia, obtained huge tracts of land on navigable rivers in the Chesapeake region. They built plantations and successfully cultivated tobacco for a growing world market. Many of the same planter families continued to exercise social and political power well into the twentieth century, but their dominance was not universal, particularly as the fulcrum of power shifted to Richmond and as the back-country filled up with those no longer beholden to these clans and their allies and resentful of first family status.