Charles City County, Virginia

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Charles City County, Virginia
Charles City Courthouse.JPG
Charles City County Courthouse
Seal of Charles City County, Virginia
Seal
Map of Virginia highlighting Charles City County
Location in the state of Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location in the U.S.
Founded 1619
Named for Charles I of England
Seat Charles City
Area
 • Total 204 sq mi (528 km2)
 • Land 183 sq mi (474 km2)
 • Water 21 sq mi (54 km2), 10.5%
Population
 • (2010) 7,256
 • Density 38/sq mi (14.75/km²)
Congressional district 3rd
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website www.co.charles-city.va.us
Charles City County, Virginia from 1895 state map

Charles City County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 7,256.[1] Its county seat is Charles City.[2]

Charles City County is located in the Richmond, VA Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is east of Richmond and west of Jamestown, with a southern border on the James River and an eastern border on the Chickahominy River.

A notable native is John Tyler, Sr., father of John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States.

History[edit]

This area had been a territory of indigenous peoples for thousands of years and various cultures. At the time of European contact in the 17th century, Algonquian-speaking Chickahominy American Indians inhabited areas along the river named after them, the Paspahegh lived in Sandy Point, and the Weanoc lived in the Weyanoke Neck area. The latter two tribes were part of the Powhatan Confederacy. They were all Algonquian-speaking tribes, the language family of peoples who occupied the Tidewater and low country.[3] This was one of the three major language family groups of American Indians in Virginia.

After the English arrived, the Virginia Company in 1619 established Charles Cittie (sic) as one of the first four "boroughs" or "incorporations" in the region. West of James County, it was named for Prince Charles, second son of King James I of England, who became the Prince of Wales and heir apparent after the death of his older brother Henry in 1612. After his father's death, he became King Charles I of England.

1619 marked the arrival for the first enslaved Africans in the Tidewater area, who arrived at Weyanoke Peninsula. There they created the first African community in what became the United States. Weyanoke, Virginia continues as a small, unincorporated community.

The Virginia Company lost its charter in 1624 under King James I, and Virginia became a royal colony. Charles City Shire was formed in 1634 in the Virginia Colony by order of the King. Its name was changed to Charles City County in 1643. It is one of the five original shires in Virginia which are extant in essentially the same political entity (county) as they were originally formed in 1634. Colonists developed the land as tobacco plantations and produced commodity crops for export. It required intensive labor, for which they recruited indentured servants from the British Isles and Africa, as well as slaves from Africa.

The original central city of the county was Charles City Point, which was in an area south of the James River at the confluence of the Appomattox River. The first Charles City County courthouses were located along the James River at Westover and at City Point. The latter's name was shortened from Charles City Point.

Crossing the James River to enter Charles City County on VA Route 106/156

Beginning in 1703, all of the original area of Charles City County south of the James River was severed to form Prince George and several other counties. The incorporated town of City Point, then in Prince George County, was annexed by the independent city of Hopewell in 1923.

North of the river, the area remained Charles City County. During the late 19th century, numerous crossroads communities developed among the plantations to serve the religious, educational and mercantile needs of the citizenry of rural Charles City County. Crossroad communities, such as Adkins Store, Cedar Grove, Binns Hall, Parrish Hill, Ruthville and Wayside, typically included a store, church and school. (Public schools were not established until after the Civil War, when the Reconstruction legislature founded the system.) As in other parts of the Tidewater, common planters and merchants of Charles City County were attracted by the appeal of Methodist and Baptist preachers in the Great Awakening in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Several Methodist and Baptist churches were established in the early 19th century, mostly in the upland areas of the county. The county also had numerous Quaker settlers. The elite planters of the James River plantations tended to remain Anglican and Episcopalian.

The county has no "City", or any centralized city or town. Charles City Court House, which has a Charles City postal address, is the focal point of government. The building which served as the courthouse was constructed in the 1730s. Used until 2007, it was one of only five courthouses in America that was in continuous use for judicial purposes since before the Revolutionary War.[4]

Native Americans[edit]

The English named the Weyanoke Peninsula after the Weyanoc, American Indians whom they encountered in the area. They were gradually displaced by colonial encroachment. They merged with other, larger tribes about the time of Bacon's Rebellion, in which colonists mistakenly attacked friendly Indians.

The Chickahominy River (pronounced chick-a-hom-a-nee), which forms much of the county's eastern and northern borders, is named after the historic Native American people whom English colonists encountered in this area. Their descendants still inhabit the region. Chickahominy means "coarse-pounded corn people" in Algonquian. At the time of the earliest English settlement, the independent Chickahominy people occupied territory surrounded by numerous tribes of the powerful Powhatan Confederacy, but were not part of it.[5]

Numerous Native Americans of the Chickahominy and the Eastern Chickahominy tribes (both groups are officially recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia) still live in the county. The Chickahominy are the second largest Native American tribe in Virginia, with just under one thousand members.[6] The Eastern Chickahominy tribe has about 130 members.

European Americans[edit]

The majority of European colonists were English people who arrived as indentured servants and who owed labor time, often up to seven years, to wealthier patrons who had paid for their passage in order to gain land and laborers. The English government provided land grants to such patrons under a headright system, to encourage the settlement of more people in the colony. During the 17th century, hard economic times in England encouraged workers to risk going to the North American colonies. While in the early years the Chesapeake Bay Colony had a high ratio of men to women, gradually more women entered the colony, and people started creating families.

Some indentured servants paid off their passage and eventually owned land of their own. While some became planters (owning 20 slaves or more), they tended to have property in the upland section of the county. By the time most indentured workers had earned freedom and some rose to common planter status, the wealthiest planter families in the county already controlled the valuable riverfront property. This gave them ready access to the waterways, the transportation system for trade and travel.

African Americans[edit]

With the growth of tobacco as a cash commodity crop, planters needed more workers, as it was labor intensive. During the late 17th century, the colonists began to import more African slave labor than arrange for indentured servants. As economic conditions improved in England, workers did not want to come to the colonies, where conditions were harsh. In the eighteenth century, slaves became the major source of agricultural labor in the Virginia Colony, then devoted to tobacco plantations. Twenty-three black slaves were known to have been brought to Charles City County before 1660.[7]

The earliest record of a free black living in Charles City County is the September 16, 1677 petition for freedom by a woman named Susannah. The Lott Cary House in the county has long been honored as the birth site of Lott Carey, a slave who purchased his freedom and that of his children. Ultimately he became a founding father of the new country of Liberia in Africa.[citation needed]

Beginning as early as the 17th century, some planters freed individual slaves by manumission. But, most free mixed-race (then considered black) families before the American Revolution were formed by descendants of unions or marriages between white indentured or free women and African men, indentured, slave or free. By colonial law and the principle of partus sequitur ventrem, children were born into the status of their mother. Thus, the mixed-race children of white women were free.[8]

Later, in the first three decades after the American Revolution, numerous planters in Virginia freed their slaves, including in Charles City County, whose Quakers, Baptists and Methodists worked for manumission.[9] Both Quaker and Methodist preachers talked to slaveholders throughout Virginia to encourage them to extend the rights of man to slaves. Many free blacks settled together in today's Ruthville, Virginia, a crossroads and one of the first free-black communities in present-day Charles City County and the state of Virginia.[9]

When the US Army decided to recruit black troops during the American Civil War, many freedmen and free blacks from Charles City County enlisted. In 1864 United States Colored Troops stationed at Fort Pocahontas soundly defeated an attack by 2500 Confederate troops commanded by Major General Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of General Robert E. Lee.[citation needed]

The unincorporated town of Ruthville was the center of the county's free black population for many years, even before the American Civil War (1861–1865). Following emancipation, the crossroads community added the Mercantile Cooperative Company and the Ruthville Training School. The United Sorgham Growers Club also met here. Earlier known by several other names, the name "Ruthville" recalls local resident Ruth Brown. Her name was selected for the local Post Office established there in 1880.[citation needed]

During Reconstruction, freedmen founded several benevolent associations, such as the Odd Fellows Lodge, Knights of Gideon, Order of St. Luke and the Benevolent Society, which were active in solving common civic problems.[citation needed]

In 1968, after passage of the federal Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act of the 1960s and federal enforcement of the black franchise, James Bradby of Charles City County was the first black Virginian to be elected to the position of County Sheriff.[citation needed]

Geography[edit]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 204 square miles (530 km2), of which 183 square miles (470 km2) is land and 21 square miles (54 km2) (10.5%) is water.[10]

Adjacent counties[edit]

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 5,588
1800 5,365 −4.0%
1810 5,186 −3.3%
1820 5,255 1.3%
1830 5,500 4.7%
1840 4,774 −13.2%
1850 5,200 8.9%
1860 5,609 7.9%
1870 4,975 −11.3%
1880 5,512 10.8%
1890 5,066 −8.1%
1900 5,040 −0.5%
1910 5,253 4.2%
1920 4,793 −8.8%
1930 4,881 1.8%
1940 4,275 −12.4%
1950 4,676 9.4%
1960 5,492 17.5%
1970 6,158 12.1%
1980 6,692 8.7%
1990 6,282 −6.1%
2000 6,926 10.3%
2010 7,256 4.8%
Est. 2012 7,157 −1.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
1790-1960[12] 1900-1990[13]
1990-2000[14] 2010-2012[1]

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 7,256 people residing in the county. 48.4% were Black or African American, 40.9% White, 7.1% Native American, 0.3% Asian, Pacific Islader, 0.6% of some other race and 2.6% of two or more races. 1.2% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 6,926 people, 2,670 households, and 1,975 families residing in the county. The population density was 38 people per square mile (15/km²). There were 2,895 housing units at an average density of 16 per square mile (6/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 54.85% Black or African American, 35.66% White, 7.84% Native American, 0.10% Asian, 0.17% from other races, and 1.37% from two or more races. 0.65% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 2,670 households out of which 27.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.60% were married couples living together, 15.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.00% were non-families. 22.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.02.

In the county, the population was spread out with 22.10% under the age of 18, 7.50% from 18 to 24, 28.90% from 25 to 44, 28.80% from 45 to 64, and 12.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 96.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.80 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $42,745, and the median income for a family was $49,361. Males had a median income of $32,402 versus $26,000 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,182. 10.60% of the population and 8.00% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 13.00% are under the age of 18 and 18.50% are 65 or older.

Government[edit]

Board of Supervisors[edit]

District I: Gilbert Smith (I)

District II: William Coada (Vice Chairman) (I)

District III: Floyd H. Miles, Sr. (Chairman) (I)

Constitutional Officers[edit]

Clerk of the Circuit Court: Edith Holmes (I)

Commissioner of the Revenue: Denise B. Smith (I)

Commonwealth's Attorney: Robert H. Tyler (I)

Sheriff: Javier J. Smith (I)

Treasurer: Mindy Bradby (I)

Charles City County is represented by Democrat A. Donald McEachin in the Virginia Senate, Democrat Joseph D. "Joe" Morrissey in the Virginia House of Delegates, and Democrat Robert C. "Bobby" Scott in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Transportation[edit]

Only Henrico County to the west is accessible without a river crossing. State Route 156 crosses the James River on the Benjamin Harrison Memorial Bridge, providing the only direct access to areas south of the river and to Hopewell, the closest city. Three bridges across the Chickahominy River link the county with neighboring James City County and Providence Forge in New Kent County.

Major highways[edit]

James River plantations[edit]

Shirley Plantation, one of the James River plantations in Charles City County

Charles City County features some of the larger and older of the extant James River plantations along State Route 5. All are privately owned. Many of the houses and/or grounds are open daily to visitors with various admission fees applicable.[16]

Some James River plantations open to the public, listed from west to east, include Shirley Plantation, Edgewood Plantation and Harrison's Mill, Berkeley Plantation, Westover Plantation, Belle Air Plantation, Piney Grove at Southall's Plantation, North Bend Plantation, Sherwood Forest Plantation. Other plantations, not open to the public, include, Evelynton Plantation, Oak Hill, and Greenway Plantation.

William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, was born at Berkeley Plantation on Feb. 9, 1773. John Tyler, the tenth president, was born at Greenway Plantation in 1790. He bought the nearby Sherwood Forest Plantation in 1842. Tyler descendants have resided at Sherwood Forest Plantation continuously since then.

Shirley Plantation is the home of the Carter Family, the descendants of General Robert E. Lee (his mother, Ann Hill Carter) who still live and work the plantation today.

Agriculture[edit]

Some Charles City County farms along the James River have been under continuous crop production for more than 400 years, but they remain highly productive. Local farmers have won national contests in bushel per acre grain production. A Charles City farmer has been the National Corn Grower in three years, producing 300+ bushels of corn per acre (18.8 t/ha) in the "no-till non-irrigated" category. Two Charles City farmers have won the National Wheat Growers First Place, producing 140+ bushels per acre (9.4 t/ha) of soft red winter wheat.

Charles City County farmers have also helped develop the leading technology for controlling runoff from grain cultivation. Fully 90% of crop land in Charles City County is in a never-till cropping system. When Hurricane Floyd in 1999 dropped approximately 19 inches (480 mm) of rain in 24 hours on some long-term never-till fields, visual observation showed virtually no erosion. A scientific study conducted in 2000 on one long-term never-till field demonstrated a 99.9% reduction in sediment runoff compared to conventional tillage, and a 95% reduction of runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus. This new technology could become a primary strategy to achieve a healthy Chesapeake Bay.

Education[edit]

Charles City County Public Schools[17] employs a staff of approximately 235 persons to meet the needs of approximately 1000 students in its three schools. All schools are technologically advanced with full wireless Internet access in both labs and classrooms. The school system strives to serve the whole child by offering students a broad spectrum of programs that includes core studies, electives gifted education, honors, dual enrollment, Advanced Placement, Army Junior ROTC, comprehensive vocational and technical programs, exceptional education programs, Title I reading, alternative education, pre-kindergarten program, and regional Governor's School program participation.

Politics[edit]

The county has favored the Democratic candidate in each of the last thirteen presidential elections and was the only county in the state won by George McGovern.[18] In the last five elections, the Democratic candidate has consistently received over 60% of the vote from the county.[19]

Communities[edit]

There are no incorporated towns in Charles City County, but the following unincorporated communities are located in the county:

Notable people[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ "Archeological Findings", Charles City County Community Plan Draft, Nov 2008, p. 2-7, accessed 23 February 2009
  4. ^ "Charles City County", Charles City County Website
  5. ^ Ewebtribe
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Charles City County - Slave Ancestor File
  8. ^ Paul Heinegg, Free African Americans in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware, 1999-2005
  9. ^ a b [2], Charles City County Website
  10. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  11. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  15. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  16. ^ James River Plantations: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary
  17. ^ Charles City Public schools site
  18. ^ David Leip's Presidential Atlas (Maps for Virginia by election)
  19. ^ The New York Times electoral map (Zoom in on Virginia)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°21′N 77°04′W / 37.35°N 77.06°W / 37.35; -77.06