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
Southside Speedway in Midlothian is know as "The
Toughest Short Track in the South".
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