Bland, the fifth of seventeen children of John Bland and Susanna de Deblere Bland, was born probably in London, where he was christened in the parish of Saint Stephen Coleman Street on February 5, 1614. Bland’s father, who died in 1632, was a prominent London merchant and shipowner, an investor in the Virginia Company of London that founded the colony of Virginia, a member of its London council, and one of the proprietors of Martin’s Hundred.
When Edward Bland was about twenty years old, he married his cousin Jane Bland. They had one known son. Bland spent much of the decade before 1646 in Spain and the Canary Islands managing parts of the family’s far-flung commercial interests. His elder brother John Bland traveled to Virginia in the mid-1630s to look after and enlarge the family’s landholdings, and his brother Adam Bland probably also visited the colony. By July 7, 1646, Edward Bland had moved to Virginia to take charge of the family’s property there. He acquired several large tracts in the vicinity of Lawnes Creek in what is now Surry County and by 1652 owned about 14,700 acres, either outright or with other family members.
Even with the growth in Bland’s Virginia landholdings, his family was in serious financial difficulty at the end of the 1640s. John Bland had lost property worth almost £14,000 at the outset of theand was unable to collect on a large loan he had made to Parliament, while other pressures were also undermining the family finances. In the summer of 1650 Edward Bland joined Abraham Wood, a noted Indian trader and a close friend of Governor , in planning an expedition to the southwest of the settled parts of Virginia. Wood hoped to open up new trading opportunities, and Bland probably hoped to establish a family claim to a large part of the Piedmont of what is now North Carolina.
Bland and Wood, together with Sackford Brewster, Elias Pennant, two servants, and an Appamattuck guide named Pyancha, left Fort Henry (approximately the present site of Petersburg) on August 27, 1650. The seven men returned nine days later, having traveled more than 175 miles. Their route has been the subject of historical conjecture, but they probably reached the Roanoke River below the site of what is now Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Bland named the place New Britain and described it as lush and fertile. After his return tothe General Assembly endorsed his plan to colonize the region. He wrote a detailed history of the expedition that contained much new information about the native inhabitants of the area. John Bland had The Discovery of New Brittaine (1651), the resulting sixteen-page pamphlet, published in London.
The Bland family did not gain title to any Carolina land or otherwise profit from the expedition. Edward Bland died shortly thereafter, most likely early in 1652 at his residence near Lawnes Creek. On May 9, 1652, his widow received a patent confirming a previous grant of 4,300 acres of land near the head of Chippokes Creek. To take charge of the family’s large Virginia interests after Edward Bland’s death, his youngest brother, Theodorick Bland (1630–1672), moved to the colony and became the progenitor of the distinguished Bland family there.
- The Discovery of New Brittaine (1651)