Shires of Virginia
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (February 2007)|
The eight Shires of Virginia were formed in 1634 in the Virginia Colony. These shires were based on a form of local government used in England at the time, and were redesignated as counties a few years later. As of 2007, five of the eight original shires were considered still extant in the Commonwealth of Virginia in essentially their same political form, although some boundaries and several names have changed in the almost 400 years since their creation.
In 1634, a new system of local government was created in the Virginia Colony by order of King Charles I of England. Eight shires were named by the House of Burgesses, each with its own local officers. These shires were officially redesignated as counties only a few years later. There were also several early name changes, notably Warrosquyoake, a Native American name with varied spellings that became Isle of Wight. Also, during the English Civil War, Charles River County and the Charles River were changed to York County and York River, respectively.
The original Shires of Virginia were:
- Accomac Shire (now Northampton County)
- Charles City Shire (now Charles City County)
- Charles River Shire (now York County)
- Elizabeth City Shire (extinct, incorporated into the City of Hampton)
- Henrico City (now Henrico County)
- James City Shire (now James City County)
- Warwick River Shire (extinct - incorporated into the City of Newport News)
- Warrosquyoake Shire (now Isle of Wight County)
Several of the shire names included the earlier names of the 4 "citties" that had been created earlier in 1619. When the names changed from "shire" to "county", the results created some confusion. This is due to seemingly contradictory names, such as "James City County" and "Charles City County" (i.e., which is it, county or city? In Virginia, with the unusual status of independent cities, a locality can be a city or a county, but cannot be both).
- The oldest county, James City, which includes the location of the original 1607 settlement at Jamestown, apparently attempted to address the potential confusion long ago, as the legal name is the "County of James City."
- In 1952, the citizens of the now-extinct "Elizabeth City County" voted to be consolidated with the independent city of Hampton. They also voted to assume the better-known and less cumbersome name of Hampton.