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Thomas Milner

Member From: 1682 - 1702

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  • Birth Date: Unknown Birth Place:
  • Death Date: 1694
  • Gender: Male Race: Caucasian
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  • Additional Info: ​Thomas Milner was elected clerk of the House of Burgesses to succeed Robert Beverly Sr., in 1682, and he was defeated by Beverley in the 1685 election of the clerk.
  • Bio: THOMAS MILNER was Speaker of the House of Burgesses at the assemblies of 1691-1692, March 1693, and October 1693. Nansemond County first had elected him to the House of Burgesses in 1682, but on 16 November he defeated James Minge, of Charles City County, in the election for clerk (to replace Robert Beverley, Sr.) and resigned his seat. Milner continued as clerk of the House of Burgesses during 1684, and the next year Governor Effingham barred him from office. Nansemond County returned him to the House for the assembly of 1688 and again for the assembly of 1691-1692, at which he was elected Speaker. He was reelected Speaker at both assemblies of 1693.
    Milner had come to Virginia, perhaps from Yorkshire or Lincolnshire, probably by 1650 when a "Tho. Milner" is listed as a headright in a land patent. A prominent surveyor in the colony from 1670 until his death, Milner, and a Mr. Heslete, marked a boundary between Virginia and North Carolina about 1688. Only three of his own land acquisitions are known; they totaled 3,362 acres in Nansemond and Lower Norfolk counties, patented between 1672 and 1684.
    Immediately prior to Bacon's Rebellion, Milner, then a major, was one of three men named to raise troops in Nansemond County to march against the Indians. Although Nansemond County records for this period have been lost, other evidence suggests that Milner was active in both the militia and the county court. During Bacon's Rebellion he signed Bacon's oath, as did Thomas Ballard. When Clerk Robert Beverley, Sr., was imprisoned early in 1682 Milner was elected to the office by the House and confirmed by the governor and Council. From 1682 to 1684 he witnessed the conflict between the governor and the House, and his office was itself an object over which the executive sought to consolidate control. Governor Culpeper claimed to have gained authority to appoint the clerk of the House of Burgesses in 1680, although an election was held in 1685.
    In April 1684 the House committee on propositions and grievances drafted an address to the king with which the Council refused to concur. The burgesses, Milner wrote, nevertheless directed the document "to the Care of Mr. William Sherwood (one of the members of that house) and my selfe as Clerk of the Assembly; to be sent for England, in order to its comeing to his Majesties Royall view.'' Sherwood and Milner sent a copy of the address to Sir Leoline Jenkins, secretary of state, in August along "with letters to Introduce it and on the year following were both turned out of all Imployment to their Great damage and disgrace." At the assembly of 1685 Milner lost the election for clerk to Robert Beverley, Sr., one of Governor Effingham' s most capable, experienced, and implacable opponents.
    Not until 1688 did Nansemond County return Milner to the House of Burgesses. On the first day of the session he was named chairman of a committee appointed for the examination of election returns. Two days later he was appointed chairman of the committee for propositions and grievances, and that afternoon when the burgesses '' resolv'd into a Grand Committee," Speaker Arthur Allen left the chair and Milner was elected chairman of the committee of the whole House that debated whether to aid the colony of New York in its defense against the French. The committee drafted the House's reasons for rejecting an expenditure for defending New York and also ''delivered the addresse relateing to the prosecution of Lieutenant Colonel William Fitzhugh,'' who was then one of Governor Effingham's political allies. During the 1688 session Thomas Milner stood second in the House to Speaker Arthur Allen and squarely amid the burgesses' disagreements with the governor.
    When in April 1681 Arthur Allen declined to swear allegiance to William and Mary, Thomas Milner was the heir apparent to the Speaker's chair; he evidently was elected without opposition. Speaker Milner and the burgesses found themselves on better terms with the new lieutenant governor, Francis Nicholson. When Governor Effingham wrote Nicholson from England asking ''whether it would have been for their Majesties Service to have opposed Colonel Thomas Milner' s being Speaker of the House of Burgesses," Nicholson replied, "It is our Opinion there was no reason to oppose the said Milners being Speaker." In the 1691 session a substantial amount of legislation was completed, and the 1692 session was almost as productive. During. these years Nicholson suggested that Speaker Milner be given a vacant customs collectorship, and the Reverend James Blair arranged his appointment as a trustee of the new College of William and Mary.
    The last two assemblies over which Speaker Milner presided, in March and October 1693, fell once again into disputes with the newly appointed governor, Sir Edmund Andros. Recurring conflict, great and small, between the governor and the House, a pattern begun in the aftermath of Bacon's Rebellion and bolstered by the Glorious Revolution, had become fixed in colonial Virginia politics. Speaker Milner died in 1694.
  • Other Notable Service and/or Elected Offices: Clerk of the House of Burgesses: 1682 - 1684
    Speaker of the House of Burgesses: 1691 - 1693 (March & Oct. sessions)
Session District District Number Party Leadership Committees
1688 Nansemond Propositions and Grievances (Chair)
1691-1692 Nansemond Speaker of the House
1693 Mar Nansemond Speaker of the House
1693 Oct Nansemond Speaker of the House
1698 Nansemond
1699 Nansemond
1700-1702 Nansemond Public Claims

*The information within this interactive and searchable application has been researched extensively by the House Clerk’s Office. As with any historical records of this age and breadth, there may be discrepancies and/or inconsistencies within records obtained from a variety of credible sources. Any feedback is encouraged at history@house.virginia.gov.

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