Gloucester County, Virginia
||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (November 2011)|
|Gloucester County, Virginia|
Gloucester County Courthouse Square, historic district
Location in the state of Virginia
Virginia's location in the U.S.
|• Total||288 sq mi (746 km2)|
|• Land||217 sq mi (562 km2)|
|• Water||71 sq mi (184 km2), 24.79%|
|• Density||161/sq mi (62/km²)|
Gloucester County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia, United States, named after the historical English market town of Gloucester. The county is located in the Hampton Roads area. Formed in 1651 in the Virginia Colony, the county was named for Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester (third son of King Charles I of England). Located in the Middle Peninsula region, it borders the York River and the lower Chesapeake Bay. Gloucester County is about 75 miles (121 km) east of Virginia's capital, Richmond. According to the 2010 Census, the population is 36,858. Its county seat is Gloucester Courthouse.
Gloucester County was the site of Werowocomoco, capital of the Native American Powhatan Confederacy (a union of 30 tribes under a paramount chief). It was home to members of the First Families of Virginia and leaders before the American Revolutionary War. Thomas Jefferson wrote early works for Virginia and colonial independence at Rosewell Plantation, home of John Page (his close friend and fellow student at the College of William and Mary). As the war ended with the British surrender at Yorktown (across from Gloucester Point), the county narrowly avoided being the escape route for British land forces led by General Cornwallis; a French effort kept British naval forces from assisting him.
Gloucester County is both rich in farmland and important to the Virginia fishing industry; it also has a retail center located around the main street area of the county seat. Despite its rural and small-town qualities, Gloucester County and adjacent Mathews County are considered part of the Hampton Roads region of southeastern Virginia. They are linked by the George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge, a toll facility across the York River carrying U.S. Route 17 to the Virginia Peninsula area. Gloucester County is nicknamed the "Daffodil Capital of the World"; it hosts an annual daffodil festival, parade and flower show.
- 1 History
- 2 Historic sites
- 3 Notable natives and residents
- 4 Tourism
- 5 Schools
- 6 Gloucester County Courthouse
- 7 Geography
- 8 Demographics
- 9 Government
- 10 Census-designated places
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The written history of Gloucester County began soon after the English settlement of Jamestown in 1607. Before then, the area was inhabited for thousands of years by hunter-gatherer indigenous peoples; artifacts have been dated to at least the late Woodland Period.
By the late 16th century, the Powhatan Confederacy had formed in the area. Werowocomoco, a stronghold of the Powhatan, was located on the north side of the York River in what is now Gloucester. This complex, stratified society depended on the cultivation of maize, beans and squash—crops which, in addition to game and fish, supported a dense population in a number of settlements. The Powhatan Confederacy was estimated to total 12,000 to 15,000 people in 30 tribes.
Arrival of Europeans
Around 1570, Spanish Jesuits attempted to establish what was known as the Ajacan Mission across the York River from Gloucester. They were killed by natives led by a Christian convert named Don Luis, who was affiliated with a village in the present York County (on the grounds of the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown) known as Chiskiack.
When English settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607, they soon came into conflict with the native Americans (whom they called "Indians") as the newcomers competed for land, game and other resources. In late 1607, John Smith was captured and taken to Chief Powhatan at Werowocomoco, his eastern capital in Gloucester County. According to legend, Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas saved John Smith from being executed by the natives; however, some historians question the accuracy of much of Smith's account of that incident. Werowocomoco was confirmed as a capital of Chief Powhatan in a later visit, when Smith was accompanied by other Englishmen.
Lost site of Werowocomoco
After the chief moved his capital to a safer, inland location and abandoned the village around 1609, knowledge of the site was lost. Researchers tried to identify it by Smith's historic writings. The current site of West Point seemed to offer a clue to its location; from there, Smith noted the distance downstream to Werowocomoco. Based upon his description, at one time scholars thought the former capital was located near Wicomico (site of Powhatan's Chimney), about 25 miles (40 km) southeast of present-day West Point. Smith also noted that Jamestown was 12 miles (19 km) from Werowocomoco "as the crow flies." Using that measure, the site near Wicomico (like the site at Purtan Bay) is also about 12 miles from Jamestown.
In 1977, archeologist Daniel Mouer of Virginia Commonwealth University identified a site on Purtan Bay as the possible location of Werowocomoco and collected artifacts from the surface of plowed fields and along the beach. He found fragments of Indian ceramics dating to the Late Woodland Period, and determined that the area was the possible site of Werowocomoco.
More than 20 years later, another landowner authorized archaeological excavation on the property. Between March 2002 and April 2003, the Werowocomoco Research Group conducted excavations and analysis at the Werowocomoco site. The research group is a collaborative effort of the College of William and Mary, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Virginia tribes descended from the Powhatan Confederacy. Initial testing included digging 603 test holes 12 to 16 inches (30 to 41 cm) deep and 50 feet (15 m) apart. They found thousands of artifacts, including a blue bead which may have been made in Europe for trading. With the historical descriptions of Werowocomoco, researchers believe these discoveries have established the site of the capital. "We believe we have sufficient evidence to confirm that the property is indeed the village of Werowocomoco," said Randolph Turner, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources' Portsmouth Regional Office in 2003.
Two Gloucester-based archaeologists, Thane Harpole and David Brown, have worked at the site since 2002 and continue their involvement in the excavations. Archeologists have discovered a dispersed village community occupying the site from AD 1200 through the early 17th century. They recovered artifacts (including native pottery and stone tools), as well as floral and faunal food remains from the large residential community. The research group has also recovered English trade goods produced from glass, copper, and other metals originating in Jamestown. The colonists' accounts of interaction at Werowocomoco during the early days of Jamestown emphasized Powhatan's interests in acquiring English objects (particularly copper, which the Indians used to create their own objets d'art.
The project is noted for the researchers' consultation and collaboration with members of the local Native American tribes (the Mattaponi and Pamunkey, descendants of the Powhatan Confederacy. Such archeological sites often contain burials and associated artifacts important to these tribes.
When I step on this site folks...I just feel different. The spirituality just touches me and I feel it.
Gloucester County has celebrated Werowocomoco and other Powhatan-heritage sites as part of the county's history. Both the newly identified site on Purtan Bay and Powhatan's Chimney at Wicomico are within the territory which native Americans have considered to be Werowocomoco. In the Algonquian language the village of the chief was not a place name, but was more-correctly translated as a reference to "the lands" where he lived. Powhatan history included frequent relocations within a general area.
In 1619, the Virginia Company divided its developed areas into four incorporations, also called "citties" [sic]. At that time, most of the area which became Gloucester County would have been considered part of "James Cittie" (although it was not yet settled). In 1634, by order of King Charles I the colony was divided into the eight shires of Virginia. First named Charles River Shire by the English, York County was renamed in 1642 during the English Civil War. The Pamunkey called the river of their territory "Pamunkey"; residents retained that name for the portion upstream from West Point. The English first named the major river the Charles River; during the English Civil War, it became the York River). The colonial government granted early land patents in the area in 1639, but it was not until after 1644 that Gloucester was considered safe for settlement. George Washington's great-grandfather received a Gloucester County land patent in 1650.
By order of the Virginia General Assembly, Gloucester County was formed from York County in 1651 and consisted of four parishes: Abingdon, Kingston, Petsworth and Ware. It was named for Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, third son of Charles I. Gloucester County figured in the history of the colony and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Kingston parish became Mathews County in 1791, and the remaining three parishes were retained in Gloucester; the county was split on what is now the eastern county line.
Plantations and historic sites
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Gloucester was a major tobacco-producing area; many of the old plantation homes and private estates have been preserved in good condition. These establishments are periodically open to public visitation during Historic Garden Week. Examples of colonial architecture are the Episcopal churches of Ware (1690) and Abingdon (1755), where Presidents Washington and Jefferson worshiped. Some early colonial buildings at the county seat on Courthouse Green continue to be used for public purposes.
During the 17th century, the tip of land protruding into the York River across from Yorktown was named Tyndall's Point by Robert Tyndall, mapmaker for Captain John Smith. In 1667, fortifications were built at what was then called Gloucester Point. They were rebuilt and strengthened many times from the colonial period through the American Civil War. This site is also known for the "Second Surrender" by General Charles Lord Cornwallis to General George Washington at Yorktown.
- Warner Hall: the home of the maternal grandmother of George Washington (now operating as a bed and Breakfast)
- Rosewell: Home of John Page, a friend of Thomas Jefferson
Notable natives and residents
- John Buckner: Brought the colony its first printing press in 1680
- Félix Rigau Carrera- First Puerto Rican Marine pilot; became a businessman in Glouceseter County in later life.
- John Clayton: Botanist
- Irene Morgan, Activist who in 1946 won a United States Supreme Court case ruling that segregation of interstate bus travel was unconstitutional, in Morgan v. Virginia (1946); she lived here in her later years
- Robert Russa Moton, Educator and author
- Dr. Walter Reed: Discovered cause and cure for yellow fever during the building of the Panama Canal
- Thomas Calhoun Walker: Attorney and civil-rights activist. The T.C. Walker House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
One area of Gloucester County is known as Guinea, which includes the unincorporated communities of Achilles, Bena, Severn and Big Island. Located near Gloucester Point, the area has been the center of the county's seafood industry (including the Shackelford, Rowe, West, Jenkins, Green, Kellum, King and Belvin families). Although the industry has declined, it remains a cultural core of the community. The fishermen are known locally as "Guineamen". Guineamen speak a distinct form of non-rhotic, Southern English.
The name "Guinea" is of uncertain origin; a common explanation is that it was named to deride Loyalists who quartered Hessian mercenaries attached to Cornwallis' army during the American Revolutionary War (the soldiers were paid one guinea per day). The Hessians were thought to have occupied lower Gloucester during the closing days of the Revolutionary War or deserted the British. Cornwallis sent British troops and cavalry to occupy Gloucester in October 1781; Hessians may have been a part of that contingent due to Gloucester's strategic importance at the mouth of the York River. However, these dialect speakers have been referred to as Guinea at least since 1730 according to a tombstone inscription found by Brewton Berry (1963). Furthermore, as noted by George Dow in 1969, a London physician, George Pinckard, referred to the master of a ship containing slaves from the Guinea coast as a "Guinea Man" in letters dating 1795.
The history of the daffodil in Gloucester County is nearly as old as the county. When Gloucester was formed in 1651 from part of York County, early settlers brought daffodils from England. Settlers soon discovered the soil and weather conditions were good for them. The bulbs were passed from neighbor to neighbor, naturalizing by the beginning of the 20th century. The daffodil industry (which earned the county the title "Daffodil Capital of America") developed during the 1930s and 1940s.  The county hosts an annual daffodil festival.
Battle of the Hook reenactment
On October 17–19, 2008, some 2,000 Revolutionary War re-enactors were scheduled to converge on Warner Hall in Gloucester County to commemorate the defeat of Banastre Tarleton and his British legion by the Duc de Lauzun's legion and Mercer's battalion of Virginia militia grenadiers. The Battle of the Hook cut off Cornwallis's supplies and escape forcing his surrender on October 19, 1781. One hour after the surrender at Yorktown, British and Hessian forces in Gloucester surrendered.
The annual spring Daffodil Festival brings many tourists to the area. The 27th annual Daffodil Festival is April 6 and 7, 2013.
Beaverdam Park is large park with many trails, located on a reservoir. Hiking, bicycling, boating, fishing, horseback riding and picnicking are available. The Whitcomb Lodge may be leased for special events. The park is home to a collection of geocaches hidden near the trails surrounding the reservoir. Small boats are available for rental, and non-gasoline-powered craft may be launched for a nominal fee.
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) is the graduate school in marine science for the College of William and Mary (the country's second-oldest university), which is headquartered in nearby Williamsburg. VIMS is located at Gloucester Point along the county's shorefront, where samples and measurements for Chesapeake Bay are taken and specimens put on display. The institute's annual Marine Science Day attracts many visitors.
Gloucester County Public Schools is the Virginia public school division serving the county. It comprises nine public schools: six elementary (grades K-5), two intermediate (grades 6–8) and one high school (grades 9–12). Some residents have suggested that the school system switch to a year-round schedule (as several neighboring counties have), but the board has rejected each proposal. The high school offers advanced courses in mathematics and language.
The five schools are:
Classes of about 20 students are assigned to a teacher for an academic year.
The middle schools (Peasley and Page) have block scheduling and teams (a division of the grade). Page Middle School was damaged by a tornado on April 16, 2011 which destroyed most of the eighth-grade wing. It has since been demolished, with students relocated to temporary classrooms on the high-school campus. There are plans in the works to build a new, more modern Page Middle School as replacement to the former destroyed facility, across the road.
Gloucester County Courthouse
Gloucester County Courthouse has a main street with three courthouses, one of which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Main Street includes a large selection of restaurants and retail merchants. There is also an elementary school ran by Gloucester County Public Schools, Botetourt Elementary located on Main Street. The county is renovating the town's sidewalk system. The annual daffodil parade proceeds along Main Street.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 288 square miles (745.9 km2), of which 217 square miles (562.0 km2) is land and 71 square miles (183.9 km2) (24.79%) is water.
- Middlesex County – north
- Matthews County – east
- York County – south
- James City County – southwest
- King and Queen County – west
- US 17 (George Washington Memorial Highway)
- SR 3 (Burkes Point Road)
- SR 14 (John Clayton Memorial Highway)
- SR 33 (Lewis B. Puller Memorial Highway)
- SR 198 (Glenns/Dutton Roads)
- SR 216 (Guinea Road)
- SR 374 (College Drive)
As of the 2010 census there were 36,858 people in 15,663 households, with 9,884 families residing in the county. The population density was 161 people per square mile (62/km²). There were 14,494 housing units, with an average density of 67 per square mile (26/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 87.2 percent white, 8.7 percent African American, 0.4 percent Native American, 0.8 percent Asian, 0.0 percent Pacific Islander, 0.6 percent other races and 2.3 percent of two (or more) races. 2.5 percent of the population was Hispanic or Latino.
There were 13,127 households, of which 35.20 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.40 percent were married couples living together, 9.90 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.70 percent were non-families. 20.30 percent of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.20 percent had someone living alone aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.62, and the average family size was 3.02.
In the county the population age was well-distributed, with 26.20 percent under age 18, 6.80 percent from 18 to 24, 30.40 percent from 25 to 44, 24.80 percent from 45 to 64, and 11.80 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.90 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $45,421, and the median income for a family was $48,760. Males had a median income of $35,838, versus $24,325 for females. The per-capita income for the county was $19,990. About 6.80 percent of families and 8.70 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.70 percent of those under age 18 and 8.50 percent of those age 65 or over.
Below is a listing of the largest employers in Gloucester County according to a report published by the Virginia Employment Commission:
|1||Gloucester County Public Schools|
|2||Riverside Regional Medical Center|
|3||Virginia Institute of Marine Science|
|4||Rappanhannock Community College|
|6||County of Gloucester|
|7||York Convalescent Center|
|10||Industrial Resource Technologies, Inc.|
Board of Supervisors
At-Large District: Ashley C. Chriscoe (R)
Abingdon District: Robert J. "JJ" Orth (I)
Gloucester Point District: C.A. "Chris" Hutson (R)
Petsworth District: John H. Northstein (I)
Ware District: Andrew "Andy" James, Jr. (I)
York District: Carter M. Borden (R)
Clerk of the Circuit Court: Margaret F. Walker (I)
Commissioner of the Revenue: Kevin A. Wilson (R)
Commonwealth's Attorney: Holly B. Smith (R)
Sheriff: Darrell Warren(I)
Treasurer: Tara L. Thomas (R)
Gloucester is represented by Republican Thomas K. "Tommy" Norment in the Virginia Senate, Republican M. Keith Hodges in the Virginia House of Delegates, and Republican Robert J. "Rob" Wittman in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Demographic and Workforce. Weldon Cooper Center 2010 Census Count Retrieved January 26, 2011
- "Werowocomoco", College of William and Mary
- Werowocomoco, College of William and Mary
- "Powhatan's Tribal Village Found, 17th century Indian Chief Was Father Of Pocahontas", CBS News, May 7, 2003
- Daily Press
- "Werowocomoco ditches date back to at least early 1400s", University Relations, William and Mary
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- "Wild about Daffodils", Pamphlet of the Gloucester County Daffodil Festival Council & Parks, Recreation and Tourism (rev. 2010)
- Daffodil Festival
- Beaverdam Park
- Welcome to VIMS
- Gloucester County Public Schools
- Abingdon Website
- Achilles Website
- Bethel Website
- Botetourt Website
- Petsworth Website
- Elementary Schools
- Page Middle School
- Peasley Middle School
- "Tornadoes Sweep Across the South," The Atlantic, April 18, 2011
- "Page Middle School". Gloucester County Public Schools. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- Gloucester High School
- Census Reference
- "Gloucester Community Profile". Virginia Employment Commission. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- Gloucester County
- Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance
- Historic Garden Week
- Gloucester school information
- Forestry In Gloucester County
- Chamber of Commerce
- Gloucester County Description
- Werowocomoco Research Group
|King and Queen County||Mathews County|
|James City County||York County||Chesapeake Bay|