Northern Neck
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Virginia's Northern Neck
and its early Culpepers

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Map of the Northen NeckThe Northern Neck is the northernmost of three peninsulas (traditionally called "necks" in Virginia) on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This peninsula is bounded by the Potomac River on the north and the Rappahannock River on the south. Historically the proprietary grant for the Northern Neck included all land between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers. Today, the southeastern or lower portion of the Proprietary remains quite rural. It is the only  part that is still referred to as the Northern Neck and most of it is shown in the modern-day roadmap at the right. Including the birthplaces of George Washington, James Madison, James Monroe, and Robert E. Lee, it spans the five present-day counties of King George, Westmoreland, Richmond, Northumberland, and Lancaster.

In 1649, exiled King Charles II gave the Northern Neck to seven of his supporters including John, First Lord Culpeper. At John's death in 1660, interest passed to his eldest son, Thomas, Second Lord Culpeper, who over the years purchased the shares of the others. At the death of Thomas in 1689, the Northern Neck Proprietary passed to Lord Culpeper's sole legitimate child, Catherine Culpeper who one year later married Thomas, Fifth Lord Fairfax.

(Historical Marker Photo at right provided by Patrick John Culpepper.)

Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax, retained control of the Proprietary through the Revolutionary War because he was not recognized as a British loyalist. At his death in 1781, however, the Commonwealth of Virginia considered Fairfax's heirs as loyalists and claimed control over the Proprietary. Ownership of Northern Neck Proprietary was finally decided in favor of Virginia in 1816.

In his 1926 treatise,
Proprietors of the Northern Neck, Fairfax Harrison provides "The evidence for the participation of the Culpepers and their descendants in the planting of Virginia."  This work spans the period of 1475-1800.

While Culpeper nobles were actively involved in the establishment of the Northern Neck, none lived there for any significant time, and no modern day Culpeppers are descended from them. The Culpeppers who established a permanent family presence in Virginia did so in Lower Norfolk County in the far southeastern corner of the state, and it is from them that most living American Culpeppers descend. Prior to entering Lower Norfolk, they were noted in records of the Northern Neck's Lancaster County, as recorded below.

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Immigration and Land Patents, 1664-1681

If land grant,  the date of the grant.
If land grant, the location of the grant
Generally, an immigrant or traveler, but not in every case.
Further Detail
*24 Aug 1664 Rappahannock Co  & Northumberland County, Virginia Robert Culpeper
Dennis Culpeper
Richard Webley, Robert Davis & Thomas Freshwater, 7221 acres. p 106 (603). Transport 145 persons.8
25 Sep 1665 Rappahannock County, Virginia James Culpeper Robert Davies, 2580 acres. p. 397 (457). Transport 52 persons.9
1670/1 Rappahannock County, Virginia James Culpeper John Prosser & Henry Creighton, 4246 acres. Transport 85 persons.11
23 Apr 1681 Nansemond County, Virginia John Culpeper John Johnson, 350 acres. Transport seven persons: John Culpeper, six times, and Curtis Land, once.17

8   Nugent, op. cit., Vol. I, Patent Book 4, p. 430.

9   Nugent, op. cit., Vol. I, Patent Book 5, p. 523.

11 Ibid., p. 90.

17 Nugent, op. cit., Vol. II, page 93; and Patent Book 7, p. 221

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Lancaster Co. Records, 1658-1659

Lancaster County was established in 1651 from Northumberland and York counties. See the page for early Norfolk for Lancaster County transactions involving Henry Culpeper in 1658-1659 and John Culpeper in 1659.

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Last Revised: 02 Jan 2015

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