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Chesterfield County, Virginia

Early History
Chesterfield County, Virginia has an important part of the early history of the founding of the United States. Recorded historical records show that Chief Powhatan governed the area known today as Chesterfield County during the arrival of the English in 1607. Chesterfield was first settled in 1611 at the Citie of Henricus (map), when residents of Jamestown moved upstream to a "convenient strong, healthie and sweete seate " following the harsh conditions of Jamestown further down the James River. The James River was the modern day equivalent of an interstate highway which made it critical in time of war. Henricus would also make it easier to repel an attack from the Spanish. It was on this location that the second permanent English settlement was founded near present day Dutch Gap, south of Richmond. As it turned out, Henricus didn’t see the Spanish attack but did receive a severe and deadly attack from Chief Powhatan in the 1622 massacre. It is said that Pocahontas once lived at Henricus.

Chesterfield County was actually scouted by Captain Christopher Newport and John Smith five days before Jamestown was founded in May of 1607. Chesterfield County received its name from the Fourth Earl of Stanhope, England's famed Lord Chesterfield and was the site of many “firsts” in the new world. It was in 1612 that tobacco was first cultivated in America at Bermuda Hundred by John Rolfe. In 1614 Bermuda Hundred became the first incorporated town in America. In 1619 Falling Creek was the site of the first iron furnace. And what must be quite a surprise to Virginia’s northern neighbors; the first hospital in America was opened in 1622 at Mount Malady near the original Citie of Henricus. And in 1709 the first commercial coal mine opened in Midlothian.

In 1634 the King of England formed eight shires and he incorporated the present day Chesterfield into the shire of Henrico. On May 25, 1749 the Virginia General Assembly separated Chesterfield from Henrico and created a new county in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

War Between the States
Chesterfield County played an important part during the Civil War with and the defense of the South’s capital in Richmond. It was the fortification at Drewry's Bluff (map) which overlooks the James River that served as a Confederate stronghold during the Civil War. From high atop the James River confederate sharpshooters and cannons prevented a Union raid on Richmond in 1862. After the war Virginia created a school in Chesterfield to help educate freedmen and is now know as Virginia State University.
 
In Chesterfield County:
  • Chesterfield County today comprises 437 square miles and lies the south of Richmond and the James River, which is how Chesterfield is known by it’s nickname of “southside”.
  • In the census of 2000, there were 259,903 people living in Chesterfield County.
  • The exact location of Henricus was probably lost during the Civil War when Union forces attempted to straighten the river.
  • Today Henricus is represented by the Henricus Historical Park in which visitors are met by costumed interpreters in reconstructed buildings on the bluffs of the James River.
  • The Audubon Society lists Henricus-Dutch Gap as one of the top sites for birding in Virginia.
  • Chesterfield County is also noted as the hometown of NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin.
  • Southside Speedway in Midlothian is know as "The Toughest Short Track in the South".

 

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