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History ...

Welcome to Powhatan's Community Website.  If you are a current resident we are sure that you will find valuable information at your fingertips, so that you'll keep coming back for more.  If you are planning on visiting Powhatan, we hope that you will learn many things about our county. Drop us a line if there's a specific question you need answered!

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Powhatan County Historical Society  |  Powhatan & The Civil War

     The first record of a white man being in the area known as Powhatan County was in 1608.  A band of approximately 120 men led by Christopher Newport made an expedition up the James River to a point as far west as Maidens Bridge.  They were forced to turn back because of hostile Monacan Indians who occupied the area at the time.  Very little is known about the Monacan Indians.  They had an open settlement of huts up and down the riverbank which were abandoned.  What is known is that they were hunters and farmers.  That they were farmers is indicated by the fact that the word "Monacan" is derived from the Algonquin word signifying a stick or spade.
     Between the years of 1699-1705, some five to seven hundred Huguenot refugees fleeing from persecution in France settled on the James River near Manakin in the then-abandoned Monacan Indian villages.  They soon scattered throughout the area, building fine homes, some of which are still standing in the county.
     In May 1777, the Virginia General Assembly created the County of Powhatan out of land from the eastern portion of Cumberland County between the Appomattox and James Rivers.  In 1850, a small portion of Chesterfield County was annexed, creating what today is the 273-square mile county of Powhatan.
     In Virginia, there are nine counties bearing Indian names.  Only one, Powhatan, is named for an Indian chief.  "Chief Powhatan," father of the famous Indian princess, Pocahontas, was one of the greatest, and is today one of the best known of the Indian chiefs.
     After the formation of the county, the first court was held on July 17, 1777, in the home of Littlebury Mosby (1729-1809).  Mosby was an important figure in the history of Cumberland and Powhatan Counties.  Before and after 1777, he was a gentleman Justice.  He was also a vestryman and senior warden of Peterville Church, a colonel in the militia, a tavern keeper, and a high sheriff in the county.  His home still stands and is a private residence at the intersection of Route 60 and Old Tavern Road.
     At the first session of the court, plans were considered for laying off the county seat to be known as Scottville in honor of General Charles Scott, a Revolutionary War hero and personal aide to General George Washington at Valley Forge.  Two granite markers, which still stand today, were placed at the south and north ends of the village to serve as meridian markers.  The name of the county seat was changed to Powhatan in 1836 and the present courthouse building was erected in 1848.
     Due to the lack of public transportation, small villages sprang up around the county, each of which served their immediate areas.  General stores were stocked with local produce, while dry goods were hauled by packet boat (operated by independent boat companies) on the Kanawha Canal, located on the north side of the river.  Each store was responsible for ordering its own supplies and picking them up at the river.  These goods were then brought across to the Powhatan side of the river boat or ferry and hauled by teams or wagons to various locations through the county.  According to a directory from that period, in 1852 there were 16 merchants in the county as well as 13 attorneys and 13 physicians.
     An assessment in 1850 valued the land in the county at an average of $10.12 per acre.  The 1852 census showed the population to be 8,171.

The above history was written by Margaret Palmore with the help of many local historians,
including Raymond Boelt and Roy Nicholls.
For more information, contact the Powhatan County Historical Society at (804) 598-1139.