Gloucester County Conspiracy (The Servants' Plot)

Historical Significance

On the first day of September, 1663, a group of white indentured servants (held for several years of service), African slaves, and Virginia Indians in the Poropotank River and Purtan Bay region of Gloucester County met to plan an insurrection against their masters to occur on 13 September 1663. It was prevented when John Birkenhead, servant of Major John Smith, of Gloucester, informed the authorities of the planned uprising. As a reward for "his honest affection for the preservation of this country" the Virginia House of Burgesses granted Birkenhead his freedom on 16 September and gave him 5000 pounds of tobacco. Additionally, the burgesses proclaimed that 13 September would henceforth annually be "kept holy." While this event is included in several accounts of African American history, other accounts suggest that enslaved Africans were not involved in this conspiracy. There is little information concerning the details of this event and there are convincing arguments for both accounts. This incident is dramatized in Mary Johnson's novel Prisoners of Hope. The plot of 1663 may have been the first serious conspiracy involving enslaved blacks. 

Physical Description

Creek with a bridge, near Hwy 14 / boundary line connecting Gloucester and King & Queen Counties.

Geographical and Contact Information

Buena Vista Road (Virginia Route 14), one-half mile east of Poropotank Drive
Saluda, Virginia
Phone: 804-693-2155

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Gloucester County Conspiracy (The Servants' Plot),” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed April 21, 2019,

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