Planter was an English term for people who were "planted" abroad in order to promote a political, religious cause or for colonization purposes. The term was very popular in England during the early 17th century.

The settlement was called a "plantation" as in the Plantation of Ulster and the Virginia Plantation. Interestingly, the term "planter" often held different nuances depending on the locale. 


Apart from the obvious meaning, the word planter also meant "colonist or new settler" and was derived from "Middle English word plaunter c. 1350-1400" [1]

Ancient Planters

This term was typically used for colonists who migrated to the Colony of Virginia from 1616 to 1620. The term, Ancient planter, is not an honorific one. Ancient Planters were granted large farms upon their arrival in the Colonies, land that had before belonged to Native Americans.

These pieces of land were typically turned into agricultural plantations. With the expansion of tobacco production, there was a need for field labor in Virginia. There were white indentured servants who served a short period of time whereas a large number of African or African American slaves were used as permanently forced laborers.[2]

Here's a quote in context for the planters in Virginia.

"Colonizers institute mass production of a single crop, such as sugar, coffee, cotton, or rubber. Though a minority, members of the ruling class might belong to an empire that enables their political, legal, and administrative control. Their labor demands cannot be satisfied by the native population, so they import African slaves or indentured laborers, as with the “coolie” and “blackbirding” trades."[3]

Planters of Newfoundland

In the 1600s, Newfoundland and Labrador was the hub of fishing in North America, but most of the population was migratory, there for the summer months returning in the fall.

The term "planter" was found in records from the 1600s through the mid 1800s in Newfoundland and Labrador.

A well known location was a planting colony at Cupers Cove in 1610. Planters occupied shore premises with their rooms or plantations and operated fishing boats. On average planters only managed one boat and hired five servants during the season. These planters relied on outside trading for some of their food, clothing, and equipment. As well as to sell their catches and fish oil.[4]

"In the Newfoundland context the term planter has several meanings, but was used most often to refer to the owner of fishing premises (a "plantation" ) or a vessel. In the early 1600s a resident fisherman (as opposed to an English migratory fisherman) was considered a planter." [5]

Planters of Labrador

"A planter could be any Newfoundland fisherman who came to Labrador for the summer fishery, operating from a "station" or "room" (premises) on the coast." [6]

A point of clarification is needed: a "station" or "room" was in fact a dual purpose "premise." "Room," originally a "ship's room" was an English term that dates back to the English fishing admirals in the early 1600s. At that time, all fishermen were forbidden to build permanent dwellings. So, as each vessel arrived they would have a ranked choice of location to build their "room" in order of arrival. Well to-do fisherman built a two storey building built with an attached pier, the bottom storey housed a fish plant that was used to clean the fish and stored the fish for transport later in the season back to England. The upper storey was often used for more storage of stores, sheds, flakes, fish and nets or in many cases, a home for the fisherman. Stations or rooms can still be seen and are still used throughout the outports of Newfoundland and Labrador today.


Plantation of Ulster 

The Plantation of Ulster was for very different reasons than the above. This plantation was solely done as an attempt to ensure that the Cromwellian Invasion of Ireland did not have to be repeated again, essentially an attempt to prove to the conquered Irish people that more of their lands and holdings were to be forfeited should they attempt to rebel again.


See Also



  1. ^
  2. ^ McCartney, Martha W. "A Study of the Africans and African Americans on Jamestown Island and at Green Sprint, 1619-1803". Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 2003, Williamsburg, Virginia.
  3. ^ Shoemaker, Nancy. “A Typology of Colonialism.” Perspectives on History, American History Association, 1 Oct. 2015,
  4. ^ Handcock, Gordon. "English Settlement" Heritage Newfoundland & Labrador, 2000,
  5. ^ Poole, Cyril F. (ed) Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador St. John's: Robinson-Blackmore Printing, 1993. Print vol 4, pp.332 (ISBN 0-9693422-4-1)
  6. ^ ibid, pp.332