Powhatan County, Virginia

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Powhatan County
Powhatan County Courthouse
Powhatan County Courthouse
Official seal of Powhatan County
Map of Virginia highlighting Powhatan County
Location within the U.S. state of Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 37°33′N 77°55′W / 37.55°N 77.92°W / 37.55; -77.92
Country United States
State Virginia
Named forPowhatan
 • Total262 sq mi (680 km2)
 • Land260 sq mi (700 km2)
 • Water2.1 sq mi (5 km2)  0.8%
 • Total28,046
 • Estimate 
 • Density110/sq mi (41/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district7th

Powhatan County (/ˈp.həˈtæn/) is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 28,046.[2] Its county seat is Powhatan.[3]

Powhatan County is included in the Greater Richmond Region.

The James River forms the county's northern border, and the Appomattox River is on the south side. The county is named for the paramount chief of the powerful confederacy of tribes of Algonquian-speaking Native Americans in the Tidewater in 1607, when the British settled at Jamestown. Historically this Piedmont area had been occupied by the Siouan-speaking Monacan. They moved further west, abandoning villages in this area, under pressure from colonists.

In 1700 French Huguenot refugees settled at a Monacan abandoned village, which they renamed as Manakin Town. It was located about 20 miles above the falls on the James River. French refugees also settled on the other side of the river in two villages now known collectively as Manakin-Sabot in nearby Goochland County to the north.


Mowhemencho Indian village[edit]

Keswick, main house, Powhatan County, Historic American Buildings Survey

See Native American tribes in Virginia

Long before the arrival of Europeans in the 17th century, all of the territory of Virginia, including the Piedmont area, was populated by various tribes of Native Americans. They were the historic tribes descended from thousands of years of succeeding and varied indigenous cultures. Among the historic tribes in the Piedmont were the Monacan,[4] who were Siouan-speaking and were recorded as having several villages west of what the colonists later called Manakin Town on the James River.

They and other Siouan tribes traditionally competed with and were in conflict with the members of the Powhatan Confederacy, Algonquian-speaking tribes who generally inhabited the coastal Tidewater area along the Atlantic and rivers feeding it. They also were subject to raids by Iroquois from the north, who were based south of the Great Lakes in present-day New York and Pennsylvania. By the end of the 17th century, the Monacan had been decimated by warfare and infectious diseases carried by the mostly English colonists and traders; their survivors were absorbed into other Siouan tribes.

Manakin Town[edit]

In 1700 and 1701, about 700-800 French Huguenot religious refugees[5] on five ships arrived at Jamestown from London, having been promised land grants and settlement in Lower Norfolk County by the Crown. Many of them had been merchants and artisans in London, which was overflowing with refugees from French Catholic persecution after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Others had found temporary refuge in Holland, Switzerland, Germany, and Ireland. As the tobacco plantations along the James River were dependent upon shipping and water transport, the area in the Piedmont above the head of navigation at the fall line had not yet been settled.

Claiming the Norfolk area was unhealthful (although it became an area of entrepreneurs), Francis Nicholson, governor of the colony, and William Byrd II, a wealthy and influential planter, offered the French refugees 10,000 acres to settle at what became known as Manakin Town, on land abandoned by the Monacan Indians about 20 miles (32 km) above the falls of the James River. They also offered land on the north side of the James River, in what became Goochland County. They wanted the French there as a buffer from Virginia Indians for the English settlements. Byrd also hoped to develop land that he held in that area.[6] The falls area was later developed as the settlement of Richmond, which became capital of the state.

The first years on the frontier were harsh for the urban French; of the 390 French who settled at Manakin Town, only 150 lived there by 1705.[7] The falls on the river prevented them from traveling downriver and the lack of roads mean that they were very isolated, and essentially cut off from the Jamestown settlement. They ran short of supplies, and initially were ill-suited to carve an agricultural settlement from the frontier. They did use some land that had been cleared by the Monacan. Although they had planned to build a town based on the French village model, it proved impractical, as the most fertile land lay along the James River.

So they placed their church and glebe lands in the center of the granted acreage and that became the center for their farms. The grant was divided more or less equally, with each grantee in 1710 receiving about 133 acres, stretching in narrow lots from the river, so that each household would have access to the water. By then, many French families had already migrated to other parts of Virginia and North Carolina. The grants would prove too limited for growing families.[7]

The French became established and assimilated in colonial Virginia; services at the Manakin Episcopal Church (King William Parish) were gradually held more in English than French. The French ultimately adopted the English language and elements of culture, intermarried with many planter families of English descent in the area and to the west, and purchased African slaves as laborers when they could afford them. Many of the Huguenot descendants migrated west into the Piedmont and across the Appalachian Mountains into Kentucky and Tennessee, as did neighboring English colonists, as well as south along the coast, with some ultimately settling in Texas. Today that state has the largest number of members in the Huguenot Society, a lineage association.

Present-day State Route 288 and State Route 711 run about a mile east of the former town. The 1895 Huguenot Memorial Chapel and Monument, the fourth church building constructed there, is maintained by the Huguenot Society.[8] It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[9] In addition, the nearby Manakin Episcopal Church,[10] built in 1954, continues full services for a regional congregation.

Powhatan County[edit]

In May 1777, the Virginia General Assembly created Powhatan County out of land from the eastern portion of Cumberland County between the Appomattox and James rivers. Residents named the county in honor of Chief Powhatan, paramount chief of the Powhatan Confederacy.[11] He had allied with Algonquian-speaking tribes in the Tidewater, numbering about 30,000 in population at the time of the Jamestown settlement. He was also the father of Pocahontas, whom colonists perceived as friendly. While in captivity, she accepted Christianity and married English settler John Rolfe. Many of their descendants were counted among the First Families of Virginia.

For the first two years after the county was formed, Mosby Tavern served as the Powhatan County courthouse. When a new courthouse was built in 1778, the immediate area was named "Scottville" after General Charles Scott, a Revolutionary War soldier. He was later elected governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky after it was formed in 1792 as a separate state from land ceded by Virginia. The courthouse area was later named Powhatan.[12]

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the county became more developed with expansive plantations as the frontier moved west. Yeomen farmers moved further into the backcountry where land was more affordable. The larger planters used numerous African-American slaves to cultivate and process tobacco, and later mixed crops, including wheat. Even after Reconstruction, Powhatan County used Convict lease to build roads in 1878.[13] The county continued to be organized on an agricultural economy until after World War II. It still has rural areas and historic plantations, but is being developed with suburban residential housing and related retail.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 262 square miles (680 km2), of which 260 square miles (670 km2) is land and 2.1-square-mile (5.4 km2) (0.8%) is water.[14] It is bordered on the north by the James River and on the south by the Appomattox River.[15]

Adjacent counties[edit]

Major highways[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)29,652[1]5.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[16]
1790-1960[17] 1900-1990[18]
1990-2000[19] 2010-2013[2]

As of the census[20] of 2000, there were 22,377 people, 7,258 households, and 5,900 families residing in the county. The population density was 86 people per square mile (33/km2). There were 7,509 housing units at an average density of 29 per square mile (11/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 81.50% White, 16.91% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.21% Asian, 0.33% from other races, and 0.84% from two or more races. 0.82% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The largest ancestry groups in Powhatan County are: English American (18%),[21] African American (17%), German (12%), Irish (11%) and Italian (3%)

There were 7,258 households, out of which 37.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 69.70% were married couples living together, 8.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.70% were non-families. 14.60% of all households were made up of individuals, and 4.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.74 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 24.00% under the age of 18, 7.30% from 18 to 24, 34.70% from 25 to 44, 25.60% from 45 to 64, and 8.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 122.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 126.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $53,992, and the median income for a family was $58,142. Males had a median income of $37,948 versus $28,204 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,104. 5.70% of the population and 4.80% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 7.90% are under the age of 18 and 8.60% are 65 or older.


Supervisors of Powhatan County are:[22]

  • Karin Carmack (Chairman)
  • Michael Byerly (Vice Chairman)
  • Thomas Berry
  • Bill Cox
  • David Williams

The County Administrator is Edward (Ned) Smither.

Presidential elections results
Presidential elections results[23]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2020 71.2% 14,055 27.0% 5,320 1.8% 355
2016 70.4% 11,885 24.0% 4,060 5.6% 943
2012 72.1% 11,200 26.3% 4,088 1.5% 237
2008 69.8% 10,088 29.3% 4,237 0.9% 131
2004 73.6% 8,955 25.6% 3,112 0.8% 96
2000 70.2% 6,820 27.9% 2,708 1.9% 183
1996 61.2% 4,679 29.5% 2,254 9.3% 710
1992 54.1% 3,832 27.5% 1,950 18.4% 1,304
1988 72.9% 4,040 26.5% 1,467 0.6% 34
1984 73.6% 3,921 25.9% 1,381 0.5% 25
1980 64.2% 2,933 32.5% 1,484 3.3% 153
1976 55.3% 2,010 42.0% 1,528 2.7% 98
1972 66.4% 1,751 30.7% 810 2.9% 75
1968 27.1% 722 37.7% 1,004 35.2% 937
1964 54.9% 1,182 45.0% 969 0.1% 1
1960 58.7% 779 39.8% 528 1.6% 21
1956 54.1% 729 22.0% 297 23.9% 322
1952 52.5% 558 46.9% 498 0.7% 7
1948 35.9% 238 51.0% 338 13.1% 87
1944 33.1% 230 66.4% 461 0.4% 3
1940 23.5% 157 76.2% 510 0.3% 2
1936 26.5% 158 73.5% 438
1932 19.5% 108 78.0% 433 2.5% 14
1928 39.7% 189 60.3% 287
1924 29.9% 110 67.1% 247 3.0% 11
1920 34.5% 140 64.8% 263 0.7% 3
1916 32.4% 112 67.3% 233 0.3% 1
1912 27.0% 109 56.9% 230 16.1% 65


Powhatan County Public School District is composed of three elementary schools: Pocahontas Elementary, Powhatan Elementary, and Flat Rock Elementary. These elementary schools currently educate Kindergarten through 5th grade. Powhatan Middle School was completed in 2018, and educates 6th grade through 8th grade. Powhatan High School, located at 1800 Judes Ferry Road, is the county's only secondary school that teaches 9th through 12th grade. The current superintendent of PCPS is Dr. Eric Jones (2019).

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on January 3, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ "Monacan Indian Nation". Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Brock, R. A. (1886). "Documents, Chiefly Unpublished relating to the Hugenot Emigration to Virginia and to the Settlement at Manakin Town". Documents, Chiefly Unpublished relating to the Hugenot Emigration to Virginia and to the Settlement at Manakin Town. Richmond Virginia: Virginia Historical Society. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  6. ^ Bugg, James L., Jr. "The French Huguenot Frontier Settlement of Manakin Town," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 61:4, October 1953, pp. 372-394. Online at http://huguenot-manakin.org/manakin/bugg.php Archived February 11, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ a b "MANAKIN TOWN: The French Huguenot Settlement in Virginia, 1700-ca. 1750", Becoming Americans: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690-1763, National Humanities Center Toolbox, accessed August 16, 2010
  8. ^ "Huguenot Society FMCV - Home". huguenot-manakin.org. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  9. ^ Manakin Episcopal Church website, accessed August 16, 2010
  10. ^ "Manakin Episcopal Church". Manakin Episcopal Church. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  11. ^ "Community Information". Village Concepts Realty Group. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  12. ^ "Powhatan, Virginia Official Website", accessed August 15, 2010
  13. ^ Virginia (1878). Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia. pp. 436–442.
  14. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  15. ^ Ripley, George; Dana, Charles A., eds. (1879). "Powhatan, an E. county of Virginia" . The American Cyclopædia.
  16. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  17. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  18. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  19. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  20. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  21. ^ "Powhatan County, VA - Powhatan County, Virginia - Ancestry & family history - ePodunk". www.epodunk.com. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  22. ^ "Board of Supervisors | Powhatan County, VA - Official Website". www.powhatanva.gov. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  23. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  24. ^ "History Buffs Wanted! The Birthplace of the Gray Ghost Is for Sale in Virginia". Real Estate News and Advice | Realtor.com®. June 17, 2015. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  25. ^ Times-Dispatch, CAROL HAZARD Richmond. "Powhatan resident Lynne Doughtie, CEO of KPMG, named one of most powerful women in U.S." Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved November 8, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cabell, Priscilla Harriss (1988). Turff & Twigg: The French Lands. Richmond, VA: Author. ISBN 0-9622078-0-2.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°33′N 77°55′W / 37.55°N 77.92°W / 37.55; -77.92