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Yorktown in York County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Somerwell House

Historic Yorktown

 

—Colonial National Historical Park —

 
Somerwell House Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, December 9, 2011
1. Somerwell House Marker
Inscription. “On the Peticon of Mungo Somervell to this court for his keeping the ferry in York Town of Same is accordingly granted…” York County Court, September 24,1702

Prior to the American Revolution, the community of Yorktown consisted of individuals whose diverse jobs and skills contributed to the success of the port. Little information exists on many of Yorktown’s early citizens, though court records help reveal the identity and livelihoods of some residents.

Such is the case of Mungo Somerwell. The first reference to Somerwell is from 1702 Court papers that reveal he requested a license for operating a ferry. His surname in these records is spelled Somervell. Later county records also show that Somerwell, in addition to operating a ferry, simultaneously held several jobs, including that of merchant, keeper of an ordinary and town constable. At his death, around 1706/7, his widow was ordered by the court to have this estate “appraised at his late dwelling house.” Somerwell’s assets included the house, “gardens, stables, warehouses and appurtenances whatsoever.”

But where was Somerwell from? When was he born? Was he successful? Is this even the same house referred to in his estate appraisal or was it built by someone else after Somerwell’s death? Future historians
Somerwell House Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, December 9, 2011
2. Somerwell House Marker
may find some of these answers, but for the present, details of Somerwell’s life are a mystery.

(sidebar)
The house for many years was referred to as the Lightfoot House, after Philip Lightfoot, who purchased the property in 1716 as a rental investment. It is possible that he, and not Mungo Somerwell, built the current building, though many changes to the property may have destroyed evidence that would help determine the building’s age. By the time the National Park Service acquired the property, the house had an extensive back wing, which was initially constructed during the Civil War for hospital use. After the war, the wing was enlarged, and house served as a hotel.

(captions)
Philip Lightfoot's signature Courtesy of Special Collections, Swan Library, The College of William & Mary

In 1935-1936, the National Park Service restored the house to its colonial appearance and utilized it for park headquarters and a visitor center.
 
Erected by National Park Service.
 
Location. 37° 14.119′ N, 76° 30.49′ W. Marker is in Yorktown, Virginia, in York County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street and Church Street, on the right when traveling west on Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Yorktown VA 23690, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers.
Somerwell House Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, December 9, 2011
3. Somerwell House Marker
At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. East Along Main Street (a few steps from this marker); West Along Main Street (a few steps from this marker); Medical Shop (Reconstructed) (within shouting distance of this marker); Cole Digges House, circa 1925 (within shouting distance of this marker); Cole Digges House, circa 1730 (within shouting distance of this marker); Custom House, circa 1720 (within shouting distance of this marker); Grace Church - circa 1697 (within shouting distance of this marker); Early Colonial Custom House (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Yorktown.
 
Categories. Colonial EraSettlements & Settlers
 
Somerwell House Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, October 23, 2016
4. Somerwell House Marker
The house is now the District Office of Rep. Rob Wittman.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on November 30, 2016. This page originally submitted on December 5, 2012, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. This page has been viewed 382 times since then and 54 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on December 5, 2012, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234.   4. submitted on November 30, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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