Author: Linda H. Rowe

historian in the department of training and historical research at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Gowan Pamphlet (fl. 1779–1807)

Gowan Pamphlet was a black Baptist preacher who ministered to a congregation in and near Williamsburg. He started his pastoral ministry while he was an enslaved man in the household of Jane Vobe, a tavern keeper who lived in Williamsburg and then Manchester. After Vobe died, he became the property of her son, David Miller, who freed Pamphlet in 1793. Pamphlet led a congregation that evolved from a small, clandestine group of worshippers late in the 1770s to an assembly of 500, composed “wholly of black people, or rather people of color,” that in 1793 was officially recognized by the Dover Baptist Association. As an enslaved black, Pamphlet often faced opposition to his mission. In or about 1783, a local Baptist organization attempted to stop him from preaching because of his color. Later, in 1793, he was accused of participating in a multistate slave conspiracy. (Nothing came of the accusation.) Miller freed Pamphlet in 1793; by 1805, the preacher owned a quarter of a Williamsburg city lot, fourteen acres in James City County, and a horse. He last appears in the historical record in 1807, when he attended a Dover Baptist Association meeting and paid personal property taxes in James City County. Pamphlet is honored as the early pastor of Williamsburg’s historic First Baptist Church.


William Cocke (1672–1720)

William Cocke served Virginia as the secretary of the colony and a member of the governor’s Council. Cocke arrived in Virginia in 1710 as Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood‘s personal physician. The doctor established a successful medical practice and later became a major landholder. Spotswood began his quest to give Cocke a high-level position in the government within a year of their arrival in the colony, and succeeded in placing him on the Council in 1713. Cocke supported Spotswood, who had a tumultuous relationship with most councilors, but remained friendly with political opponent William Byrd.