York County, Virginia

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York County, Virginia
Seal of York County, Virginia
Seal
Map of Virginia highlighting York County
Location in the state of Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location in the U.S.
Founded 1634
Seat Yorktown
Area
 • Total 215 sq mi (557 km2)
 • Land 105 sq mi (272 km2)
 • Water 110 sq mi (285 km2), 51.3%
Population
 • (2010) 65,464
 • Density 533/sq mi (206/km²)
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website www.yorkcounty.gov

York County (formerly Charles River County) is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 65,464.[1] The county seat is the unincorporated town of Yorktown.[2]

Located on the north side of the Virginia Peninsula, York County is included in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area.

York County is situated on the York River and many tributaries; the county shares land borders with the independent cities of Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, and Poquoson, as well as James City County and shares a border along the York River with Gloucester County.

Formed in 1634 as one of the eight original shires (counties) of the Virginia Colony, York County is one of the oldest counties in the U.S. Yorktown is one of the three points of the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia, and the location where victory was accomplished in 1781 at the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War to gain independence from Great Britain.

In modern times, the county is home to several important U.S. military installations. There are many miles of waterfront residential and recreational areas. York County adjoins the Busch Gardens Williamsburg theme park and includes within its borders the affiliated Water Country USA water park, the Yorktown Riverfront area, Yorktown Battlefield and Visitor Center and Yorktown Victory Center. Yorktown is linked by the National Park Service's bucolic Colonial Parkway with Colonial Williamsburg and the Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement attractions at Jamestown, Virginia. Heritage, tourism to the Historic Triangle draws international visitors and is a major economic activity for the county.

History[edit]

Native Americans[edit]

The area which is now York County was long inhabited by Native Americans. These were hunter-gatherer groups during the late Woodland Period (1000 BC to AD 1000) and earlier.

By the late 16th century, much of the coastal plain draining to the Chesapeake Bay of the current Commonwealth of Virginia was called Tenakomakah in Algonquian, meaning ("densely inhabited Land").[3] There, a weroance (or chief) named Wahunsunacock (1547–1618) created a powerful empire of eastern-Algonquian language-speaking people known as the Powhatan Confederacy by conquering or affiliating by agreement with approximately 30 tribes. Wahunsunacock was originally from a village known as "Powhatan," near the fall line of the James River. (The Powhatan Hill neighborhood of the current City of Richmond was developed near this site). He was known as Chief Powhatan, and later established a second capital village, known as Werowocomoco, in a centrally located position in Tenakomakah. It was located along the north bank of the York River in present-day Gloucester County (which was subdivided from York County in 1651).[4]

The Chiskiack tribe of the Powhatan Confederacy lived in York County on the south side of the York River until the 1630s, when escalating conflicts with the expanding English colony based at Jamestown caused them to move. The former site of the village of Chiskiack (also sometimes spelled "Kiskiack"), as well as the Cheesecake Road and Cheesecake Cemetery (names also thought to have derived from the Powhatan), were later developed as the present-day Naval Weapons Station Yorktown near Yorktown and are included in the military base.

After Chief Powhatan moved his capital from there in 1609, the site believed to have been Werowocomoco near Purtan Bay was lost to history. Since the early 21st century, however, it has been under continuing archaeological study projects. The discoveries and ongoing research led by the College of William and Mary hold great promise in expanding understanding of the lives of the Native Americans in the area during that era of York County's history.

Ajacán Mission[edit]

In 1570, the Ajacán Mission was a failed attempt to establish a mission by Spanish Jesuit priests. They were guided by Don Luis, a Native American who had been taken to Spain, where he converted to Christianity and was christened and educated. When brought to Virginia as a guide for the Jesuits, he returned to his native life. A few months later, he led an attack in which the Europeans were killed.

Virginia Colony[edit]

About 30 years later, English colonists arrived and established Jamestown in 1607 on the opposite side of the Virginia Peninsula in the Colony and Dominion of Virginia. In 1619, the area which is now York County was included in two of the four incorporations (or "citties") of the proprietary Virginia Company of London which were known as Elizabeth Cittie and James Cittie.

In 1634, what is now York County was formed as Charles River Shire, one of the eight original shires of Virginia and named for King Charles I, . Charles River Shire took its name from the younger son of King James I. In the 21st century, it was one of the five original shires considered extant in essentially its same political form, making it one of the oldest counties in the United States.

During the English Civil War, Charles River County and the Charles River (also named for the king) were changed to York County and York River, respectively. The river, county, and town of Yorktown are believed to have been named for York, a city in Northern England.

Yorktown[edit]

York Hall

The first courthouse and jail were located near what is now Yorktown although the community, founded as a port for shipping tobacco to Europe, as variously called Port of York, Borough of York, York, Town of York, until Yorktown was established in 1691, when the House of Burgesses required each county to designate a port of entry and build warehousing. Although never formally incorporated as a town, Yorktown is the county seat of York County. The only town ever incorporated within the county's boundaries was Poquoson, which was incorporated in 1952 and became an independent city in 1975.

It is most famous as the site of the surrender of General Cornwallis to General George Washington in 1781, ending the American Revolutionary War. Yorktown also figured prominently in the American Civil War during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862.

Other communities, boundary changes[edit]

The small unincorporated town of Lackey and a nearby area known as "the Reservation" were taken over by the U.S. Navy during World War I in an area now part of the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown. Many of the displaced African American landowners eventually relocated to Grove, located nearby along the York County-James City County border.

During World War II, the sites of three other small York County towns were absorbed into U.S. government reservations. Penniman was the site of a World War I munitions facility operated by the DuPont company, and was made a part of Cheatham Annex) in 1943. To the west of Penniman, which is reported to have had a peak population of 15,000, on land which is now part of Camp Peary, the smaller towns of Magruder, and Bigler's Mill were located. Much of Magruder's population and at least one church were relocated to Grove, adding to that small community's population once again.

In 1949, the county grew by 4 square miles (10 km2), as land in that amount was ceded to York County by neighboring Warwick County. At the time, the move was part of a successful attempt by Warwick County to block an annexation suit brought by the City of Newport News, with whom Warwick was eventually consolidated by mutual agreement in 1958. (The reduction in size allowed Warwick County to claim an exemption from the proposed annexation at the time).

In 1975, the county lost 15.5 square miles (40.1 km2) of land as the incorporated town of Poquoson, which had been within York County, became an independent city, although ties between the county and the new city remained close. Over 30 years later, they continued to share courts, sheriff's office, a jail, and some constitutional services.

York County also adjoins another small independent city, Williamsburg, which was long located within James City County. In the 20th century, some areas of York County adjacent to Williamsburg were lost to the growing small city through annexation.

York County in the late 20th and early 21st centuries[edit]

From the 1980s to modern times, York County experienced a rapid transition from a rural county to a bedroom community for the neighboring core cities of Hampton and Newport News.

In modern times, York County and Yorktown in particular are part of an important historical area of attractions known as the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia, which includes Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg. Yorktown is the northern terminus of the scenic Colonial Parkway operated by the U.S. National Park Service which links the three. In 2005, the county completed Riverwalk Landing, a successful pseudo-colonial waterfront development at Yorktown to revitalize the previously deteriorating beach and town district and complement the 2007 celebration of Jamestown.

Geography[edit]

The Coleman Bridge connects York County and neighboring Gloucester Country

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 215 square miles (560 km2), of which 105 square miles (270 km2) is land and 110 square miles (280 km2) (51.3%) is water.[5] It is the third-smallest county in Virginia by land area. It is near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

Also, in terms of population clusters, the County is divided by a vast expanse of federal land in the midsection of the county, much of which is densely wooded park land, and military training areas. The southern portion of the County is dense with suburban developments and contains the majority of the county's population. There is little room for additional growth in the southern portion of York County because it is a relatively small area, and was essentially fully developed by the early 2000s. A small industrial area along the York River just East of Yorktown contains a power plant owned by Dominion Virginia Power, and a petroleum terminal on the former site of an oil refinery that ceased operation in 2010.

The northern portion is more connected with the Williamsburg community than Yorktown and, although less populous than the south, is also fairly dense. Having not seen a significant amount of growth until recently, the northern portion is now seeing the development of new residential communities and shopping areas.

Adjacent counties and cities[edit]

National protected area[edit]

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 5,233
1800 3,231 −38.3%
1810 5,187 60.5%
1820 4,384 −15.5%
1830 5,354 22.1%
1840 4,720 −11.8%
1850 4,460 −5.5%
1860 4,949 11.0%
1870 7,198 45.4%
1880 7,349 2.1%
1890 7,596 3.4%
1900 7,482 −1.5%
1910 7,757 3.7%
1920 8,046 3.7%
1930 7,615 −5.4%
1940 8,857 16.3%
1950 11,750 32.7%
1960 21,583 83.7%
1970 33,203 53.8%
1980 35,463 6.8%
1990 42,422 19.6%
2000 56,297 32.7%
2010 65,464 16.3%
Est. 2012 66,146 1.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[6]
1790–1960[7] 1900–1990[8]
1990–2000[9] 2010–2012[1]

As of the census[10] of 2000, there were 56,297 people, 20,000 households, and 15,880 families residing in the county. The population density was 533 people per square mile (206/km²). There were 20,701 housing units at an average density of 196 per square mile (76/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 76.4% White, 13.4% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 4.9% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 1.4% from other races, and 3.4% from two or more races. 4.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 20,000 households out of which 42.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 67.30% were married couples living together, 9.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 20.60% were non-families. 16.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.78 and the average family size was 3.15.

In the county, the population was spread out with 29.10% under the age of 18, 6.60% from 18 to 24, 30.70% from 25 to 44, 24.40% from 45 to 64, and 9.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 96.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.50 males.

As of the 2010 Census, the population had grown to 65,464 [11] and the median household income was $84,167,[12] the highest in the Hampton Roads region. Males had a median income of $42,948 versus $28,713 for females. The per capita income for the county was $36,755. About 2.70% of families and 3.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.90% of those under age 18 and 3.80% of those age 65 or over.

Government[edit]

The County is traditionally organized per Virginia Law. It is governed by a Board of Supervisors, who are elected for four-year terms by voters from each of the county's five districts. The Board appoints a County Administrator to act as the administrative head of the county. The current county administrator is James O. McReynolds.[13]

York County Board of Supervisors[edit]

  • District 1: Walter C. Zaremba
  • District 2: Sheila S. Noll
  • District 3: Donald E. Wiggins (Chairman)
  • District 4: George S. Hrichak
  • District 5: Thomas G. Shepperd, Jr. (Vice Chairman)

York County School Board[edit]

  • District 1: Barbara S. Haywood
  • District 2: Cindy Kirschke
  • District 3: Mark A. Medford (Chairman)
  • District 4: R. Page Minter
  • District 5: Robert W. George (Vice Chairman)

Other elected officials[edit]

  • Sheriff: J.D. "Danny" Diggs[14]
  • Commonwealth's Attorney: Benjamin M. Hahn[15]
  • Circuit Court Clerk: Lynn S. Mendibur[16]
  • Commissioner of the Revenue: Ann H. Thomas[17]
  • Treasurer: Deborah B. Robinson[18]

Education[edit]

Elementary Schools[edit]

  • Bethel Manor ES
  • Coventry ES
  • Dare ES
  • Grafton Bethel ES
  • Magruder ES
  • Mt. Vernon ES
  • Seaford ES
  • Tabb ES
  • Waller Mill ES
  • Yorktown ES
  • Extend Center

Middle Schools[edit]

  • Grafton MS (connected to Grafton High School)
  • Queens Lake MS
  • Tabb MS
  • Yorktown MS

High Schools[edit]

  • Bruton HS
  • Grafton HS (connected to Grafton Middle School)
  • Tabb HS
  • York HS
  • York River Academy
  • Virtual High School

Military bases[edit]

York County is home to several large and important military facilities of the United States. Located along the York River, small portions of each base extend into adjacent James City County as well.

The Naval Weapons Station Yorktown was originally established during World War I by order of President Woodrow Wilson, and now includes the formerly separate Cheatham Annex Supply Complex. Camp Peary was established during World War II as a Seabee Training Base. As the war progressed, it became valuable to the Allied Forces to house sensitive prisoners-of-war from captured German naval vessels; it was important for Nazi authorities to be unaware of their capture, since that also meant secret code books thought lost-at sea may also have been compromised. Many of these POWs made Virginia and the United States their new homeland after the War. Separating these two large military reservations is Queen's Creek, which originates in the western reaches of the county and drains to the York River.

York County contains some former towns including Yorke, and a large number when the military reservations were created in the first half of the 20th century. These include the original Lackey (known locally as "the Reservation"), Halstead's Point, Penniman, Bigler's Mill, and Magruder. Many relocated residents and their descendents, many of whom were farmers and watermen, now live in such places as Yorktown, Gloucester, Lee Hall, Grove, and Lightfoot.

Communities[edit]

Trivia[edit]

  • The lost 17th-century town and port of Yorke was also located along the York River, not far from present-day Yorktown.
  • York County gained territory as a gift from neighboring Warwick County in 1949 as the latter needed to reduce its size slightly to qualify for an exemption from an annexation suit by the City of Newport News. (Warwick eventually became a city itself in 1952, and then merged by mutual agreement with Newport News in 1958; however, York County kept the extra land.)
  • York County lost substantial territory when the Town of Poquoson became an independent city in 1975. This was widely seen as a defensive move against potential annexation by the city of Hampton with whom the town shared a border. In modern times, the ties between York County and the City of Poquoson remain close, including sharing a court system and Sheriff's Office.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ http://www.wm.edu/niahd/journals/index.php?browse=entry&id=4965 c.f. Anishinaabe language: danakamigaa: "activity-grounds", i.e. "land of much events [for the People]"
  4. ^ Powhatan: "Werowocomoco", College of William and Mary
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  6. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  10. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  11. ^ [1]. Weldon Cooper Center 2010 Census Count Retrieved January 26, 2011
  12. ^ York County QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ [4]
  16. ^ [5]
  17. ^ [6]
  18. ^ [7]

Sources[edit]

Publications[edit]

  • McCartney, Martha W. (1977) James City County: Keystone of the Commonwealth; James City County, Virginia; Donning and Company; ISBN 0-89865-999-X

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°13′N 76°26′W / 37.22°N 76.44°W / 37.22; -76.44