It was to include a college to
help educate Virginia Indians, as well as the children of settlers.
Dale was accompanied by men known as the "Hammours". These veterans of
the Low Country wars were heavily armed and better trained than
settlers of Jamestown.
Dale wrote about the site: "Eighty miles
up our river from Jamestown, I have surveyed a convenient, strong,
healthie and sweete site to plant a new towne (according as I had
instructions upon my departure) there to build whence might be
removed the principal site." Today known as Farrars Island, the site
was on a neck of land with 5,000 acres and a shoreline of seven
miles on the James River. The English settlers soon built a palisade
and moat-like ditch to protect entrance to the 174-yard wide neck
from the shore area.
Dale named the new settlement Henricus in
honor of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, the elder son of King
James I. When finished in 1619, "Henricus Citie" contained three
streets of well-framed houses, a church, storehouses, a hospital,
and watchtowers. 1619 was a watershed year for the Virginia Colony.
Henrico and three other large citties (sic) were formed, one of
which included what is now Chesterfield County. That year Falling
Creek Ironworks, the first in what is now the United States, was
established slightly west on the creek near its confluence with the
James River. In the Indian Massacre of 1622, Native Americans
destroyed Henrico City and the ironworks to try to drive away the
English. These were not rebuilt. The colony did not gain a college
until 1693, when the College of William and Mary was awarded a royal
charter in the capital.
In 1634, the King of England directed the
formation of eight shires (or counties) in the colony of Virginia.
One of these was Henrico County, which incorporated a large area on
both sides of the James River.
Chesterfield County formed
25 May 1749, the Virginia House of Burgesses separated Chesterfield
from Henrico County and created the new county. The first county
seat was established at Chesterfield Court House. It has continued
as county seat except for 1870–1876, during Reconstruction, when the
county government was located at Manchester. The latter community
has been subsumed by South Richmond.
The legislature named the
county for the former British Secretary of State, Philip Stanhope,
4th Earl of Chesterfield. Lord Chesterfield was famous for his "good
manners and writings". One of his most frequently used sayings
implies avoiding rudeness; "An injury is much sooner forgotten than
an insult." Many years later, Chesterfield Cigarettes were named
after this county.
In 1939 during the Great Depression, the
Virginia State Police moved their offices from downtown Richmond to
a seven-room farmhouse located on 65 acres (260,000 m2) of land 3½
miles west on route 60. This structure served as administrative
headquarters and barracks. The State Police have since built a new
administrative headquarters and an academy here.
coal, roads, turnpikes and railroads
Prior to the American
Revolutionary War, a thriving port town named Warwick was located at
the northwestern confluence of Falling Creek and the James River. It
was destroyed during that war, and not rebuilt. (Near the
present-day DuPont facility at Ampthill, the site is not open to the
public.) Another early port town was Port Walthall on the north
shore of the Appomattox River, near the current Point-of-Rocks Park.
Coal mining in the Midlothian area of Chesterfield County began in
the 18th century. Around 1701, French Huguenot settlers to the area
discovered coal. In a 1709 diary entry William Byrd II, the wealthy
planter who had purchased 344 acres of land in the area, noted that
"the coaler found the coal mine very good and sufficient to furnish
several generations." Commercially mined beginning in the 1730s, the
coal fueled the production of cannon at Westham (near the present
Huguenot Memorial Bridge) during the American Revolutionary War.
The Manchester Turnpike in Chesterfield County, completed in 1807,
was the first graveled roadway of any length in Virginia. The toll
road ran between the coal mining area of Midlothian near the
headwaters of Falling Creek and the James River port of Manchester.
The current Midlothian Turnpike (U.S. Route 60) generally follows
the earlier route.
Created in 1816, the Virginia Board of Public
Works was a governmental agency which oversaw and helped finance the
development of Virginia's internal transportation improvements
during the 19th century. In that era, it was customary to invest
public funds in private companies, which were the forerunners of the
public service and utility companies of modern times. Claudius
Crozet (1789–1864), a civil engineer and educator who helped found
the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), was Principal Engineer and
later Chief Engineer for the Board of Public Works. He supervised
the planning and construction of many of the canals, turnpikes,
bridges and railroads in Virginia, including the area which is now
The Board partially engineered and funded new
turnpikes, which were operated by private companies to collect
tolls. The Manchester and Petersburg Turnpike, which preceded much
of the current Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. Routes 1-301), was one
of these. A canal was built in the Manchester section of
Chesterfield to enable transporting coal around the James River
falls. Portions are extant and may be seen near the south end of
Richmond's Mayo Bridge. This canal is not as well-known as the
larger James River and Kanawha Canal, which was constructed along
the north bank at Richmond, and extended many miles to the west.
To improve access to markets, in 1825, a group of mine owners,
including Nicholas Mills, Beverley Randolph and Abraham S.
Wooldridge, resolved to build a tramway. (The Wooldridge brothers
hailed from East Lothian and West Lothian in Scotland, and named
their mining company Mid-Lothian, the source of the modern community
name). In 1831, the Chesterfield Railroad opened as the first
railroad in Virginia; it carried coal from mines near Falling Creek
to the docks at the fall line on the James River. Later railroad
lines connecting these areas included the Richmond and Danville
Railroad (R&D) (which put the Chesterfield Railroad out of business)
and the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad. They were both completed
before the American Civil War, in which they provided important
transportation for Southern supplies and men.
A narrow gauge
railroad was constructed through the county: the Farmville and
Powhatan Railroad, later renamed the Tidewater and Western Railroad,
extended from Farmville in Prince Edward County to the tiny village
of Bermuda Hundred in far eastern Chesterfield. It was a port on the
James River near the mouth of the Appomattox River, opposite
present-day Hopewell. Although long gone, portions of the old rail
bed may been seen along Beach Road near the entrance to Pocahontas
After Reconstruction, the R&D became part of the
Southern Railway. It is now part of Norfolk Southern Railway. The
Richmond Petersburg Railroad became part of the Atlantic Coast Line
Railroad. In 1900, a mostly parallel line was built by the Seaboard
Air Line Railroad, with a branch line to Hopewell. Through the
restructuring of the railroad industry beginning in 1960, the CSX
Transportation system eventually absorbed parts of both these lines.
American Civil War
During the American Civil War (1861–1865),
Drewry's Bluff became a key defensive point for Confederate forces
to block the Union's vastly superior Navy from taking Richmond by
way of the James River. During the Siege of Petersburg (1864–65), a
long defensive works through the county was part of the
Confederacy's Richmond-Petersburg line of land defenses. Railroad
lines passing through Petersburg finally proved the key to the fall
of Richmond in 1865, effectively ending the War.
A normal school
founded by the state after the American Civil War primarily to help
educate freedmen eventually became Virginia State University,
located in the Ettrick area near Petersburg and Colonial Heights.
Former areas lost to new independent cities
across the James River from the City of Richmond) was the county
seat of Chesterfield County from 1870 until 1876, when it was moved
to the present location at Chesterfield Court House. The City of
Manchester had meanwhile left Chesterfield in 1874 to become an
independent city, and merged with the City of Richmond by mutual
agreement in 1910. It is now known as a part of South Richmond.
Colonial Heights was formerly an incorporated town in Chesterfield
County, and became an independent city in 1948. Over half a century
later, the two neighbors continued to share provision of some
shares borders with four independent cities, and was long exposed to
annexation suits from any of them under Virginia law. The county
lost territory to the City of Richmond through several annexations
in the 20th century, including one in 1944. The city tried to annex
more of the county in 1970, an action that created controversy.
While the annexation lawsuit filed by Richmond in 1965 was being
heard, with the city seeking 51 square miles of the county, the
leaders of the two jurisdictions, Irvin G. Horner, Chairman of the
Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, and Phil J. Bagley, Jr.,
the Mayor of Richmond, met privately and agreed to a compromise. In
May 1969, the city and Chesterfield County approved what was called
the Horner-Bagley Compromise, incorporated in a court decree of 12
July 1969. This effectively shut out a number of third parties
attempting to block the annexation, and they believed they had been
excluded from the process. A small commuter bus company held
operating rights in the county, but the expanded city granted the
franchise to a competitor.
Richmond annexed 23 square miles of
the county, including fire stations, parks, and other
infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines. Under the agreement,
the county school system also conveyed about a dozen public schools,
support buildings, and future school sites to the City of Richmond
to be operated by Richmond Public Schools. Residents of the annexed
area were unhappy about this change, as Richmond Public Schools was
already involved in a contentious racial desegregation lawsuit in
the Federal courts because of its failure to integrate. The
transferred schools included Huguenot High School, Fred D. Thompson
Middle School, Elkhardt Middle School, and eight elementary schools.
In 1971, the federal court ordered these schools included in a
citywide desegregation busing program. This ended in the 1990s.
Many of the 47,000 residents who lived in the annexed area had been
opposed to the action. They fought unsuccessfully for more than 7
years in the courts to have the agreement reversed. Some called the
annexed 23 square miles area "Occupied Chesterfield."
residents of Richmond also opposed the annexation, claiming that it
violated the National Voting Rights Act of 1965. They said the city
had deliberately diminished their voting power by adding the white
voters of the annexed area, which diluted the black vote within the
city. In 1970 the pre-annexation population of the city was 202,359,
of which 104,207 or 52% were black citizens. The annexation added
47,262 people, of whom 45,705 were non-black and 1,557 were black.
The total post-annexation population was 249,621 and 42% black.
The plaintiffs prevailed in federal court. The city created an
electoral ward system to ensure blacks did not lose their voting
power, changing what had been a system of electing all city council
positions at large (by which the majority population would more
easily prevail). Under the ward system, four wards had a
predominantly white population, four wards had a predominantly black
population, and one ward had a population that was 59% white and 41%
black. Soon after the ward system was established, the city elected
its first black mayor .
According to the U.S. Census
Bureau, the county has a total area of 437 square miles (1,131.8
km2), of which 426 square miles is land and 11 square miles (2.57%)
Chesterfield County is largely bordered by two rivers
which define miles of its boundaries. The major adjoining cities
each originated at the head of navigation of these river, called the
fall line. There, the hillier and rockier Piedmont region falls to
the sandy and mostly flat eastern coastal plain Tidewater region, a
change which creates barriers for ships going upstream on the
rivers. Chesterfield County includes areas of both regions.
Richmond and Manchester were formed at the fall line of the James
River. Most of the northern portion of Chesterfield County is part
of what is called Richmond's "South Side". As the James River flows
east to Richmond and then turns almost due south below the fall line
for about 8 miles before turning east, Henrico County encompasses
much of Richmond's West End, North Side, and East End areas.
County borders on the Appomattox River to the south.
Much of the southern and eastern portions of the county are
considered part of the Tri-Cities area, which includes Petersburg,
located at the fall line.