Click on the pictures above to go to the next section. In the below section, click on the highlighted letters

Revised 27 December 2010


Virginia began colonization in May 1607 with the arrival of three boatloads of English immigrants, who arrived on the northeast short of the James River. Captain John Smith and several companions sailed into several of the bays and river openings before selecting this as a final destination for his group.

Unfortunately, little planning went into this settlement and many of the settlers died from illness and lack of food. The settlers sent here were not farmers, but rather adventurers and entrepreneurs who came in search of gold, silver and other valuable commodities. Twice in their early period, settlements were attempted. In 1584, the settlement of Roanoke began, but this group returned home after only a year. A second settlement was established in 1587, but vanished without a trace. The settlers fell victim to starvation, disease and Indian attack. Attempting to save his people and secure supplies for his people, Captain John Smith lead a trading mission to the camps of Chief Powhattan, ruler of the several tribes of the Chesapeake Bay area. Smith won the favor of Princess Pocahontas, and through gifts provided by the tribes, food was procured to sustain the colony for the winter. John Rolfe married Pocahontas and was known to have visited England. New supplies were brought over in 1608 and 120 new immigrants replenished the loss of inhabitants. by 1609, the colony consisted of around 490 souls. By 1610, this group had dwindled to around 60. This group decided to return to England and were on their way home when Lord Delaware's ships pulled into harbor and they were convinced to return to shore. More food and additional colonists arrived from England later in 1610. Early Virginians were introduced to tobacco growing by John Rolfe in 1612 and this remains a primary source of income for many of the Virginia farmers.

In 1619, The house of Burgesses became Americas first representative assembly. Virginia was appointed as a royal colony in 1624. It was in almost constant trouble with the Crown or its representatives as the colonists objected to the arbitrary actions of the colony officials and their demands. In 1693, one of America's oldest colleges was founded and named College of William and Mary. (For those of you who are researchers, the William and Mary collection is one of the best resources available for early colonial records. A copy of these books are housed at the Sons of the Revolution Library in Glendale for those in the Los Angeles area.)

Until 1680, the Episcopal church was the state church in Virginia. All children regardless of religious affiliation, had to be baptized by the ministers of that church. By 1700 there were more than 80,000 people residing in the Tidewater region of Virginia. This increased by another 20,000 by 1717 and by 1754, the population exceeded 250,000. Settlers were moving over the coastal plain, the Piedmont plateau and had crossed over the Blue Ridge highlands and settled into the Valley of Virginia as far as the Appalachian Plateau.

By the 1730s, there was heavy immigration from Pennsylvania into Virginia consisting of ethnic groups of Scotch-Irish, Welsh and Germans. These settled in the upper valleys. These groups represented the Welsh Baptist church, the English Quakers and the Scotch Presbyterians. The first Methodist churches were established in that region in about 1800. Other groups to join the region were Russians, English, Germans, Italians, Greeks, Polish, Czechs, Irish, Austrians and Hungarians. Tow primary pathways were the source of much of this immigration. The first was from the sea and began in the 1730s. The second pathway was called the Great Wagon Road and followed an ancient Indian Trail called the Great Warrior Road. This led west from Philadelphia and descended into the Shenandoah Valley. The most famous section of this road was called the Wilderness Road. Blazed by Daniel Boone, it led southwest from the valley into Tennessee and Kentucky, crossing the Allegheny Mountains at the Cumberland Gap.

At first, tobacco farming was not a successful enterprise. King James I was firmly opposed to tobacco and smoking. by 1618, however, Virginias shipments to England had increased by 2000 percent. Virginia was a land of plantations and the areas of the Chesapeake, Potomac, Rappahannock, York and James were a territory of plantations run by small families of whites supported by a culture of slave labor, first brought over by the Dutch in 1619. Each plantation had its own river landing where the tobacco was picked up and traded for goods from England. It became a huge contrast between the wealthy large plantation owner and the poor small farmer. In some counties, landowners had to pay the king a Quit Rent of one shilling for each fifty acres bought.

Virginia was highly involved in the Revolutionary War. It provided us some of our most important political and Military leaders including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason (author of the Bill of Rights), Patrick Henry, Jeb Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Jubal Early and the Lee family, including Robert E. Lee and his half brothers Francis and Richard Henry Lee. . .the only brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence. In the course of the Revolution, Virginia was the site of numerous raids, and small battles. Aided by the Marquis de Lafayette, efforts were made to protect the Colony from the British raiders, led by Lord Corwallis and the man declared to be a turncoat, Benedict Arnold. The British raided Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson in 1781. He managed to escape. The last Revolutionary War battle occurred at Yorktown, where the Colonial Army, under the leadership of George Washington, and with the help of a French fleet, finally managed to trap Cornwallis and forced his surrender.

Since its original founding, Virginia has had three state capitals. The first Capital was established in 1609 up the James River from Chesapeake Bay, and named Jamestown. It was chosen because it had water deep enough to harbor ships, but proved to be in the middle of a disease harboring swamp. In 1699, the Capital was moved by then Governor Francis Nicholson, to Williamsburg. This too failed to work. In 1737, during the Revolutionary War, the capital was again moved and relocated to the small settlement of Richmond. When the war was over, Richmond prospered as a primary shipping point. The harbors became a crucial focal point later when Civil War finally erupted. Virginia joined the United States on 25 July 1785 as the tenth state to ratify the Constitution and in 1789, Virginia provided us with the first President of the United States--George Washington.

In 1792, three of Virginia's counties broke off and became the state of Kentucky. Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819. Ever mindful that they were greatly outnumbered by the slaves who farmed their lands, the plantation owners eagerly watched for news of any potential problems. In 1831, one Nat Turner led several of the slaves in a revolt, causing new restrictions to be put into place.

In 1861, the conflict between the North and South finally reached the boiling point and Virginia seceded from the Union. The Confederate States of America was formed with Richmond as its capital, beginning one of the bloodiest wars in our history. Virginia saw 26 major battles and over 400 other engagements. The fighting in some areas became so intense that towns were frequently overrun by one side or the other. The harbors, so vital to the Southern shipping industries, were blockaded. This blockade led to the world's first confrontation ever with ironclad ships, when in 1862, the Merrimack and the Monitor shot it out in the harbor. Winchester changed hands 72 times during the course of the war. In 1863, Virginia gave up another section of its counties and West Virginia became a separate state. The first major battle of the war occurred in Bull Run and to this place, when war finally came to an end, came surrender when in 1865, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant met at the Appomattox Court House to sign the terms and final treaty for peace. Virginia finally rejoined the Union in 1870.

The ports of Virginia remain an important military facility. The Norfolk Naval base serves as home port for numerous ships and includes the headquarters of the NATO Allied Command Atlantic, the Atlantic Fleet and the Fifth Naval District. The Virginia beaches attract thousands of visitors yearly. and people step back in time to visit the glorious homes and outstanding scenery, especially along the Skyline Drive of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although records are difficult to locate in some areas due to the destruction of records during the wars, efforts are underway to reconstruct as much of this history as possible.

Virginia originally had Shires and not counties. According to an article on Rootsweb, "In Virginia, cities are independent of the counties and maintain their own records."

Name Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Accomack 1663 Northampton Accomack
Albemarle 1744 Goochland, Louisa Charlottesville
Alexandria 1801 Fairfax, became part of the District of Columbia Alexandria
Alleghany 1822 Bath, Botetourt, Monroe Covington
Amelia 1734 Brunswick, Prince George Amelia C. H.
Amherst 1761 Albemarle Amherst
Appomattox 1845 Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Prince Edward Appomattox
Arlington 1801 Fairfax Arlington
Augusta 1738 Orange Staunton
Bath 1790 Augusta, Botetourt, Greenbrier Warm Springs
Bedford 1753 Albemarle, Lunenburg Bedford
Bland 1861 Giles, Tazewell, Wythe Bland
Botetourt 1769 Augusta Fincastle
Brunswick 1720 Prince George, Isle of Wight, Surry Lawrenceville
Buchanan 1858 Russell, Tazewell Big Rock & Grundy
Buckingham 1761 Albemarle, Appomattox Buckingham
Campbell 1781 Bedford Rustburg
Caroline 1727 Essex, King and Queen, King William Bowling Green
Charles City 1634 Original Shire Charles City
Charles River 1634 One of Virginia's original shires. (Later renamed York)
Charlotte 1764 Lunenburg Charlotte Court House
Chesterfield 1749 Henrico Chesterfield
Clarke 1836 Frederick, Warren Berryville
Craig 1851 Botetourt, Giles, Roanoke, Monroe, Alleghany, Montgomery NewCastle
Culpeper 1748 Orange Culpeper
Cumberland 1748 Goochland Cumberland
Dickenson 1880 Buchanan, Russell, Wise Clintwood
Dinwiddie 1752 Prince George Dinwiddie
Dunmore 1772 Renamed Shenandoah in 1778
Elizabeth City 1634 Original Shire Hampton
Essex 1692 Old Rappahannock Tappahannock
Fairfax 1742 Prince William, Loudoun Fairfax
Fauquier 1759 Prince William Warrenton
Fincastle 1772 Botetourt (abolished in 1777 - see Kentucky Shire)
Floyd 1831 Montgomery, Franklin Floyd
Fluvanna 1777 Albemarle Palmyra
Franklin 1785 Bedford, Henry, Patrick RockyMount
Frederick 1738 Orange, Augusta Winchester
Giles 180 Montgomery, Monroe, Tazewell, Mercer, Wythe, Craig Pearlsburg
Gloucester 1651 York Gloucester
Goochland 1727 Henrico Goochland
Grayson 1792 Wythe, Patrick Independence
Greene 1838 Orange Stanardsville
Greensville 1780 Brunswick, Sussex Emporia
Halifax 1752 Lunenburg Halifax
Hanover 1720 New Kent Hanover
Henrico 1634 Original Shire Richmond
Henry 1776 Pittsylvania, Patrick Martinsville
Highland 847 Bath, Pendleton Monterey
Illinois 1778 Created from Augusta County in 1778, but abolished in 1784
Isle of Wight 1634 Original Shire Isle of Wight
James City 1634 Original Shire Williamsburg
Kentucky 1777 Created from Fincastle after that county was discontinued in 1777. (Three years later, Kentucky was also abolished)
King and Queen 1601 New Kent King & Queen C. H.
King George 1720 Richmond, Westmoreland King George
King William 1701 King and Queen King William
Lancaster 1651 Northumberland, York Lancaster
Lee 1792 Russell, Scott Jonesville
Loudoun 1757 Fairfax Leesburg
Louisa 1742 Hanover Louisa
Lower Norfolk 1637 Created in 1637 from New Norfolk. (Later became part of Norfolk, then Princess Anne)
Lunenburg 1746 Brunswick Lunenburg
Madison 1792 Culpeper Madison
Matthews 1790 Gloucester Matthews
Mecklenburg 1764 Lunenburg Boydton & Radcliffe
Middlesex 1673 Lancaster Saluda
Montgomery 1776 Fincastle, Botetourt, Pulaski Christiansburg
Nansemond 1637 Upper Norfolk Suffolk
Nelson 1807 Amherst Lovingston
New Kent 1654 York (Pt. James City) New Kent
New Norfolk 1636 with Elizabeth City as its seat of government. Discontinued
Norfolk 1691 Lower Norfolk Portsmouth
Northampton 1634 Original Shire Eastviille
Northumberland 1648 York Heathsville
Nottoway 1788 Amelia Nottoway
Orange 1734 Spotsylvania Orange
Page 1831 Rockingham, Shenandoah Luray
Patrick 1790 Henry Stuart
Pittsylvania 1766 Halifax Chatham
Powhatan 1777 Cumberland, Chesterfield Powhatan
Prince Edward 1753 Amelia Farmville
Prince George 1702 Charles City Prince George
Prince William 1730 King George, Stafford Manassas
Princess Anne 1691 Lower Norfolk Princess Anne
Pulaski 1839 Montgomery, Wythe Pulaski
Rappahannock (new) 1833 Culpeper Washington
Rappahannock (old) This older version of Rappahannock was located along the Rappahannock River in eastern Virginia. The county was discontinued in 1692. The second version was created in 1833. (See Richmond)
Richmond 1692 Rappahannock (old) Warsaw
Roanoke 1838 Botetourt, Montgomery Salem
Rockbridge 1778 Augusta, Botetourt Lexington
Rockingham 1778 Augusta Harrisonburg
Russell 1787 Washington Lebanon
Scott 1814 Lee, Russell, Washington Gate City
Shenandoah 1772 Frederick, (Dunmore until 1778) Woodstock
Smyth 1832 Washington, Wythe Marion
Southampton 1749 Isle of Wight, Nansemond Courtland
Spotsylvania 1720 Essex King and Queen, King William Spotsylvania
Stafford 1664 Westmoreland Stafford
Surry 1652 James City Surry
Sussex 1753 Surry Sussex
Tazewell 1799 Russell, Wythe Tazewell
Upper Norfolk 1637 Renamed Nansemond
Warren 1836 Frederick, Shenandoah (Name changed to Isle of Wight in 1637.)
Warrosquoyacke 1634 Renamed Isle of Wight in 1637.
Warwick 1634 combined with Newport News in 1953 and discontinued
Washington 1776 Fincastle, Montgomery Abingdon
Westmoreland 1653 Northumberland Montross
Wise 1856 Lee, Russell, Scott Wise
Wythe 1789 Montgomery (Pt. Grayson) Wytheville
Yohogania 1776 Created in 1776 from Augusta County. Discontinued in 1786
York 1634 Original Shire - Originally called Charles River Yorktown