- Lost counties, cities, and towns of Virginia
Lost counties, cities and towns of Virginia are those which formerly existed in the English Colony of Virginia, or the Commonwealth of Virginia after it became a state.
This article focuses on the some of the lost cities, counties, and towns (both incorporated and not) once claimed within Virginia's boundaries. At least at the local level, most (if not all) are not truly lost. For most of the "lost" places, it is known with a high degree of certainty (and some secrecy in a few instances) what became of them. Some of these "lost" communities now in other states exist under their prior names, and surely the citizens of each do not consider them to be "lost" at all. Within Virginia, most records seem to prefer the word "extinct" as opposed to "lost". In this article, the words should be considered to have the same meaning.
One former Virginia county now forms an entire state:
Kentucky. The last major loss took place around the time of the American Civil Waras dozens of western counties separated to form the new State of Kanawha, soon renamed West Virginia. Two more counties left Virginia to join West Virginia in 1866.
Within the current state boundaries, on the
Virginia Peninsula, the US military took control of several entire communities for military needs during World War Iand World War II. Over 50 years later, these areas remain military reservations. Beginning just after World War II, a wave of political conversions and consolidations of local governments in southeastern Virginia in the third quarter of the 20th century (from 1952-1976) had the net result of eliminating 5 counties, 3 cities, and 1 incorporated town, but it did produce two completely new cities, and saw the expansion of one existing city from two to 250 square miles (5 to 650 km²) (Virginia Beach). Through that process, even the desolate Virginia portion of the Great Dismal Swampis located in two "cities": Chesapeake and Suffolk. Thus, both counties and towns are virtually non-existent in most of Hampton Roads in the 21st century.
The stories of the lost counties, cities and towns of Virginia are tales of success, failure, great wisdom, honor, tragedy, natural and historic preservation, and even national security. They are a combination of fact, fiction, and legend. Although the fictional Mayberry and neighboring Mt. Pilot belong to North Carolina, Virginia can lay claim to television history and a bit of fun with
Walton's Mountain, Valleyville, and real places with names like Wash Woods, said to have been built from the wreckage of ships at the False Capealong the Atlantic Ocean.
After the European discovery of what we now call
North Americain the 15th century, European nations competed to establish colonies in the new lands. In the late 16th century, the area claimed by England was a largely undefined area (generally most of the east coast of North America which was north of the Spanish settlements in Florida, with an unknown western border). This huge area, some of which was contested by other powers, was called "Virginia" by the English. They named it in honor of their reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, often called the "Virgin Queen" because she remain unmarried. Sir Walter Raleigh's attempts to permanently settle the Roanoke Colonyin the 1580s (culminating in the ongoing mystery of the "Lost Colony") and the Virginia Company of Plymouth's Popham Colony(in present-day Maine) were both noteworthy attempts in what was technically called Virginia, at least by the English. However, neither the Roanoke Colony or the Popham Colony achieved a permanent foothold.
For this article, we will begin with the first permanent English settlement, which was Jamestown and include what was thereafter considered "Virginia". (The Plymouth Company's successor and the Pilgrims finally established a permanent colony at
Plymouth, Massachusettsin 1620, but by then, the area was no longer considered part of Virginia. The region was christened " New England" by Captain John Smith, who had earlier played a crucial role in Jamestown's earliest years).
May 14, 1607, the Virginia Company of London(competing with the Virginia Company of Plymouth) was the first to achieve a permanent settlement with the selection of Jamestown Island. Favorable for defense from attacks by enemy ships, it was a poorly sited location for living conditions, with brackish water, little hunting game, and vulnerable to attacks by hostile Native Americans. Jamestown's very survival was perilous for the first five years. During that time, it was dependent upon supply missions from England, and most of the colonists died of disease, starvation, or from attacks by hostile Native Americans. A low point was reached during what became called the "starving time" in 1609-1610 when over 80% of the 500 colonists perished after the Third Supply mission was disrupted by a massive hurricane in the North Atlantic. However, with the arrival of Lord Delawareand John Rolfein 1610, the tide began to turn. With new leadership and Rolfe's successful cultivation of export tobaccoas a cash crop, the settlement at Jamestown and the new colony surrounding it survived. Although Jamestown became a permanent settlement, a century later it was largely abandoned as a population center when the capital was moved to high ground at Middle Plantation, soon renamed Williamsburg. Jamestown reverted to a few farms until historic interest and preservation began late in the 19th century.
Kecoughtan, a better-sited location in the present-day
independent cityof Hampton, was essentially stolen from Native Americans in 1610 by the English colonists under the leadership of Sir Thomas Gates. In the 21st century, through the old American Indian village of Kecoughtan, the City of Hampton lays claim to status as the oldest continually occupied settlement in the British Colonies in what is now the United States.
For almost 400 years, hundreds of counties, cities, and towns were formed in the Colony of Virginia and later the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was generally the tradition of the English during the colonial period to establish large geographic units, and then to subsequently sub-divide them into smaller more manageable units. This two-phase process was conducted in order to establish legal claims to maximum territory. As areas were settled, the large territories were subdivided for a variety of reasons.
Beyond North America: Bermuda
In 1609, the proprietary
Virginia Company of London's Third Supply Mission to its Virginia Colony consisted of a fleet of nine ships, headed by the company's newly built flagship, the "Sea Venture". Aboard the flagship, commanded by Vice Admiral Christopher Newport, was the Admiral of the fleet, Sir George Somers, as well as Sir Thomas Gates.
In the Atlantic Ocean, the fleet encountered a massive three-day storm, most likely now thought to have been a
hurricane. Sighting land, Admiral Somers had the "Sea Venture" steered aground there to save it from sinking. All aboard survived but their ship was damaged beyond repair, and they had become separated from the others. They soon realized that they had become shipwrecked on the north-easternmost island of an uninhabited archipelago, known as Bermuda.
They were stranded on the islands for 10 months. Two new ships were built to replace the "Sea Venture" with many parts used in their construction salvaged from the wrecked ship, which had been left "high and dry" on the reef when the storm abated. By 1610 the "Deliverance" and the "Patience" had been completed. Leaving two men behind to maintain England's claim on the islands, Somers set sail with the remainder from Bermuda for Jamestown. Those embarked included
William Strachey, whose account of the adventures of the Sea Venture's survivors may have inspired Shakespeare's "The Tempest", and who would draft Virginia's first laws, and John Rolfe, who would found Virginia's tobacco industry, making the colony economically viable. John Rolfe left his first wife and son buried in Bermuda, but the widower was to find a second wife in the Native American daughter of Chief Powhatan. He and Pocahontasbecame the parents of Thomas Rolfe, through whose descendants many First Families of Virginiatrace their linage to both English and Native American roots.
On arrival in Virginia on
May 23, 1610, Somers found the colony, headquartered at Jamestown, decimated by what came to be called the Starving Time. Starvation, illness and attacks by Native Americans had left less than 100 survivors of the 500 settlers of the previous autumn. It was decided to abandon the settlement, and the survivors were boarded onto the "Deliverance" and "Patience". The timely arrival of another relief fleet (bearing Governor Lord De La Warre) granted the colony a reprieve. Somers returned to Bermuda aboard the "Patience", but died there in 1610.
After reaching England, the reports of survivors of the "Sea Venture" aroused great interest about Bermuda. Two years later, in 1612, the Virginia Company's Royal Charter was extended to include the island, and a party of 60 settlers was sent, under the command of Sir Richard Moore, the island's first governor, to join the three men left by the "Deliverance" and "Patience". They founded and commenced construction of the town of St. George.
The Virginia Company, finding the colony at Bermuda to be unprofitable, briefly handed its administration to the Crown in 1614. The following year, 1615, King James granted a charter to a new company, the
Somers Isles Company, formed by the same shareholders, which ran the colony until it was dissolved in 1684 (The Virginia Company itself was dissolved after its charter was revoked in 1624). Representative government was introduced to Bermuda in 1620, when its House of Assembly held its first session, and it became a self-governing colony. So at the very least, from 1612 until 1614, Bermuda, also known as "Virgineola" and the "Somers Isles", was legally part of the Virginia Colony. Close connections continued for the following century and a half, with many Bermudians settling in Virginia, and wealthy Bermudian merchant families, such as the Tuckers [http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/Autumn01/tucker.htm] dominating trade through Virginia (and other Southern) ports.
In 1619, The Virginia Company of London divided up the settled portions of Virginia in North America into four large "burroughs", "citties" (sic), or "incorporations". Kecoughtan (soon renamed Elizabeth Cittie) included the eastern portion of the
Virginia Peninsula, as well as the entire area known in modern times as the Eastern Shoreas well as most of today's South Hampton Roads. Each of the others extended to both sides of the James River and even further.
These four citties were:
It unclear whether this form of political organization survived the loss of the Virginia Company's charter in 1624, when Virginia became a Royal Colony. Representation in the
House of Burgesseshad been expanded as plantations grew, and was more representative of population than the boundaries of the "citties", both before and after 1624.
hires, aka counties
In 1634, the local governmental unit of a "
county" came to Virginia following the form of shires (or counties) in England. The concept as it was brought to North America, was to have an area of size such that legal matters such as recording land and property transfers, resolutions of disputes, and criminal matters could be handled at a " court" within a day's journey of travel from all of its parts. As the population of counties grew, especially into more distant geographic extremities, many counties were subdivided to form additional counties. Having counties composed of areas of common interests to the citizens became a more important factor as the distance one could travel in a single day increased. Throughout the United States, counties are generally the setting for local courts, and local courts are still the designated places for recording land transactions and resolving civil disputes and criminal matters.
Each of the eight original
shires of Virginiacreated in 1634 were renamed as counties only a few years later.
It is notable that by including in some the earlier names of the 4 "citties" [sic] (which had been created earlier in 1619) and then changing from "shire" to "county" in their names, the results have long been the source of some confusion. This is due to the seemingly contradictory names such as "James City County" and "Charles City County". (e.e., which is it, county or city? In Virginia, with the unusual status of independent cities to further confuse some, a locality can be one or the other, but cannot be "both").
*The oldest county, James City, which includes the location of the original 1607 settlement at Jamestown, apparently attempted to address the potential for confusion long ago, as the legal name is the "County of James City."
*In 1952, the citizens of the now-extinct "Elizabeth City County" voted to be consolidated with the independent city of Hampton in 1952. They also voted to assume the better-known and less cumbersome name of Hampton.
Of these, as of 2007, five of the eight original shires are considered still extant in the
Commonwealth of Virginiain essentially their same political form (county), although some boundaries and several names have changed in almost 400 years.
Of the 50 states, only in
Louisianaand Alaskaare no counties found. In Louisiana, parishes are essentially the equivalents of counties. Most of Alaska is divided into boroughs, although much of the state does not fall under any division below the state level (see Unorganized Borough). Both Connecticutand Rhode Islandare nominally subdivided into counties for census purposes and ease of geographic reference, though neither state actually has any governmental entity operating on the county level. In both states, therefore, the local municipalities are direct subdivisions of the state, and state courts are located primarily in the states' population centers.
In Virginia, beginning in 1871, under state constitutional changes after the
American Civil War(1861-1865), cities became politically independent of the counties. An independent cityin Virginia since then has been comparable to a county. Many agencies of the U.S. Government consider Virginia's independent cities to be county-equivalents.
incorporated towns are located within counties. The level of services and relationships with the county may vary to suit local preferences. Towns can initiate annexation suits against continuous counties to expand their territory but cannot do so against other incorporated towns or independent cities. Some incorporated towns have become independent cities. There are prohibitions against forming new incorporated towns in some counties.
Unincorporated towns and communities
In Virginia, unincorporated
towns are essentially unincorporated communities which are not formally organized. They may also be called villages. Virginia does not officially recognize villages or unincorporated towns or communities as units of political subdivision of the state, unlike counties, independent cities, and incorporated towns. Township is also an unused term in Virginia.
In some independent cities of Virginia, areas which were formerly considered unincorporated towns are often called neighborhoods or communities of the same or similar names to continue to differentiate their individual areas and identities.
Virginia in 2005
As of February 2005, Virginia currently has 95 counties, 39 independent cities, and 190 incorporated towns. There are also hundreds of communities in Virginia with their own identities which may be considered by some to be unincorporated towns.
Some of the older counties still operating under their earliest names (or with only very minor variations) are Charles City County, James City County and Henrico County, each of which is one of the original original eight shires (or counties) which were formed by the Virginia
House of Burgesses(predecessor to the Virginia General Assembly) and King Charles I of Englandin 1634. Of these, with a substantial portion of the mostly rural population claiming Native American roots, at a practical level, Charles City County probably has a good claim to being still being in its earliest form in the 21st century. However, politically, that honor goes to James City County, the nation's oldest.
While dozens of other localities in Virginia also trace their roots to the 17th century, hundreds more have changed their names, were merged or been annexed by neighbors, are now located in other states, or for many other reasons no longer exist in Virginia.
Areas of Virginia now in other states
In the simplest terms, most or all of four other states (
Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia) were originally located in Colonial Virginia. It is important to bear in mind that the major highways of travel were waterways in the 17th century. Generally, the earliest border descriptions used were more specific regarding eastern edges and waterways, and much more vague about western extremities, especially in the description of land areas.
Maryland: one lost settlement
William Claiborneof Jamestown established a trading post and settlement on the Isle of Kent (today known as Kent Island) in the Chesapeake Baythree years prior to the founding of the province of Maryland. Following the colony's formation, ownership of the island was disputed between the two colonies, until Claiborne left Kent Island permanently in 1658. Virginia did not officially give up its claims however, until 1776. Today, Kent Island is part of Queen Anne's County, Maryland.
Pennsylvania: one lost county
There were many disputes over boundaries in western Virginia and
Pennsylvaniaprior to 1780. Similar conflicts between Marylandand Pennsylvania were resolved by 1767 through the work of two men chosen by the sixth Lord Baltimore(for Maryland) and Thomas Pennand his brother Richard Penn (sons of William Penn, and proprietors of Pennsylvania). Astronomer Charles Masonand surveyor Jeremiah Dixoncame from England to do this work. The line they surveyed in 1766 and 1767 has since been known as the Mason-Dixon Line. However, their authority extended west only as far as Western Maryland, and did not resolve border conflicts in the area known as Yohogania County. Virginia and Pennsylvania disputes there and elsewhere along the Virginia-Pennsylvania border areas continued throughout the remainder of the colonial period.
After the areas in dispute became part of the newly-formed
United States, the new states of Virginia and Pennsylvania (each one of the first thirteen states which formed the union) soon reached an agreement, and most of Yohogania County became part of Pennsylvania in the 1780s under terms agreed of the state legislatures of both Virginia and Pennsylvania. A small remaining portion left in Virginia was too small to form a county, and was annexed to another Virginia county, Ohio County. It is now Hancock County, West Virginiaand part of Brooke County, West Virginia.
The areas of Yohogania County ceded to Pennsylvania included all of present-day Westmoreland County and parts of the present counties of Allegheny (including most of the city of Pittsburgh), Beaver, Washington, and Fayette Counties. Ohio and Monongalia Counties also lost territory that they claimed to Pennsylvania (Washington, Greene and Fayette) counties in this realignment.
Illinois and Indiana: one lost county
By the time the United States was formed late in the 18th century following the
American Revolutionary War, the areas which formed Illinois and Indiana were all contained in only one Virginia county, which was named Illinois County.
In 1787, the future states of Indiana and Illinois became part of the original
Northwest Territory, part of which was partially carved from land previously in the far western portions of Virginia. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787passed by the United States Congressallowed for the creation of as many as five states in the northwest portion of the Ohio Valley on lines originally laid out in 1784 by Thomas Jefferson.
Known as the Northwest Territory (not to be confused with the
Northwest Territoriesof Canada), the new federal lands were east of the Mississippi River, and between the Ohio Riverand the Great Lakes. The region comprised more than 260,000 square miles. The ordinance defined the boundaries of the future states, excluded slavery and required that 60,000 inhabitants be present for statehood. Ultimately, the territory was organized into the present states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michiganand Wisconsin.
Subdivided from the Northwest Territory, the
Indiana Territorycame into being in 1800, and included both Indiana and Illinois. In 1816, Indiana became the 19th state. In 1818, Illinois became the 21st state.
Kentucky: ten lost counties
At the outbreak of the
American Revolutionary War, large numbers of Virginia settlers began migrating through the Cumberland Gapinto what is now Kentucky. Kentucky County was formed in Virginia in 1776. Four years later it was divided into the Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties of Virginia. The Commonwealth of Kentucky (the Blue Grass State) was formed in its entirety from the Commonwealth of Virginia, being admitted to the Union as the fifteenth state in 1792.
The ten Virginia counties "lost" in the formation of the new Commonwealth of Kentucky were (alphabetically):
* Bourbon County
* Fayette County
* Jefferson County
* Kentucky County
* Lincoln County
* Madison County
* Mason County
* Mercer County
* Nelson County
* Woodford County
Many of these names were later reused to name other new Virginia counties. Some of those were "lost" again when the state of West Virginia was formed in 1863. It is somewhat ironic that Virginia has twice named counties for one of its most revered sons,
Thomas Jefferson, and lost the county each time to the formation of another state.
West Virginia: fifty lost counties
Much as counties were subdivided as the population grew to maintain a government of a size and location both convenient and of citizens with common interests (at least to some degree), as Virginia grew, the portions which remained after the subdivision of Kentucky in 1776 became more populated. For the western areas, problems were the distance from the state seat of government in Richmond and the difference of common economic interests resultant from the tobacco and food crops farming, fishing, and coastal shipping on the
Eastern Continental Divide(waters which drain to the Atlantic Ocean) along the Allegheny Mountains, and the interests of the western portion which drained to the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. The western area focused its commerce on neighbors to the west, and many citizens felt that the more populous eastern areas were too dominant in the State Legislature and insensitive to their needs. Major crisis in the Virginia state government were adverted during the period before the American Civil War, but the underlying problems were fundamental and never well-resolved.
slaverywas not the major economic issue for the western counties, which were much less dependent upon large scale labor-intensive farming than their eastern counterparts, states rights were an issue for the majority of Virginians, regardless of geographic location. The American Civil War brought Virginia's internal problems with eastern and western conflicting state governmental needs to resolution. The early occupation of the western lands by Union forces and Virginia's divided loyalties led to the formation of the new State (not Commonwealth) of West Virginia, which was admitted to the Union in 1863.
Although the State of Virginia had lost only ten counties when Kentucky became state in 1776, the number of lost counties (and cities and towns) was much greater when West Virginia was subdivided. Some of these were names which had been reused by Virginia after the State of Kentucky was subdivided in 1776.
Listed alphabetically, the 50 counties of Virginia lost to the formation of West Virginia were:
* Barbour County
* Berkeley County
* Boone County
* Braxton County
* Brooke County
* Cabell County
* Calhoun County
* Clay County
* Doddridge County
* Fayette County
* Gilmer County
* Greenbrier County
* Hampshire County
* Hancock County
* Hardy County
* Harrison County
* Jackson County
* Jefferson County
* Kanawha County
* Lewis County
* Logan County
* McDowell County
* Marion County
* Marshall County
* Mason County
* Mercer County
* Monongalia County
* Monroe County
* Morgan County
* Nicholas County
* Ohio County
* Pendleton County
* Pleasants County
* Pocahontas County
* Preston County
* Putnam County
* Raleigh County
* Randolph County
* Ritchie County
* Roane County
* Taylor County
* Tucker County
* Tyler County
* Upshur County
* Wayne County
* Webster County
* Wetzel County
* Wirt County
* Wood County
* Wyoming County
In 1866, Virginia unsuccessfully challenged in the Supreme Court the secessions of Berkeley County and Jefferson County.
Also lost to Virginia with the formation of West Virginia were many cities and towns. A partial listing of these (there were many more) is:
* Bath (Berkeley Springs)
* Capon Springs
* Charles Town
* Harper's Ferry
* New Cumberland
* North River Mills
* Paw Paw
* Point Pleasant
* St. George
* St. Marys
* White Sulphur Springs
ummary of areas Virginia "lost" to other states
By the time Virginia drafted a new state constitution during Reconstruction, 62 former counties had become located in other states. Of course, many cities and towns were "lost" in those areas as well.
Areas now in Virginia
Virginia began losing counties, cities, and towns as almost as early as they were formed. The reasons, some known and some unknown, vary widely. The very first town, Jamestown which was first settled in 1607, is probably the best known of all of these.
Virginia law provides several mechanisms for changing the status of a locality. It is possible for an entity to change so that it has either greater or fewer local powers and responsibilities.
Unincorporated towns or communities in some counties may become
incorporated towns, which are still within the respective county. Incorporated towns may become independent cities. Any of the above may act to merge or consolidate with a neighbor.
Likewise, it is possible to simplify status. Incorporated towns may relinquish their charters. Some independent cities have been allowed to revert to incorporated town status and rejoin contiguous counties.
Virginia law provides for incorporated towns and independent cities to have the power to annex portions of contiguous localities at a lesser level. For example, incorporated towns may seek unincorporated territory in a county. Independent cities may seek additional unincorporated territory in a county or territory located in an incorporated town. Independent cities may not seek annexation from each other.
Virginia's annexation laws have long been felt by many leaders to be a barrier to regional cooperation among localities, creating an air of mistrust, and a feeling among citizens that such changes often take place against their will. Many of the state's needs may be met best through regional cooperation, which is discouraged by annexation issues. As of 2007, a moratorium on many major annexations has been in place since the late 20th century by actions in the
Virginia General Assembly. Consolidation of counties, cities, and towns is also possible, but only as authorized by special legislation of the Virginia General Assembly. The last wave of consolidations took place in the Hampton Roads area between 1952 and 1976.
The first English settlers in Virginia chose
Jamestown Islandlargely because they had been advised by the Virginia Companyto select a location that was easily defensible. An additional benefit of the site was that the land was not occupied by Indians (Native Americans). This was largely due to the inhospitable terrain and poor conditions, which also caused most of the early settlers to die of disease and starvation.
The settlement began to prosper by 1617 and became the capital of the colony in 1619 when the
House of Burgesseswas established. However, when a decision was made not to rebuild the statehouse which had burned down in 1698, the capital was relocated in 1699 to Middle Plantation, on higher ground about 12 miles (20 km) east, soon to be renamed Williamsburg.
The Jamestown settlement was finally abandoned shortly thereafter. The area soon reverted to its natural state and actually became an island as the isthmus was severed by weather events at a later date which went unrecorded. By the 1750s, the land was a heavily cultivated plantation, and remained essentially farmland until 1892.
In 1892, Jamestown was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Barney. The following year, the Barneys donated 2½ acres of land, including the 1639 church tower, to the
Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities(now APVA Preservation Virginia). By this time, erosion from the river had eaten away the island's western shore; visitors began to conclude that the site of James Fort lay completely underwater. With federal assistance, a sea wallwas constructed in 1900 to protect the area from further erosion.
Colonial National Monument was authorized by the
U.S. Congresson July 3, 1930. It was established on December 30, 1930. On June 5, 1936, it was re-designated a national historical park, and became known as Colonial National Historical Park.
In 1934, the
National Park Serviceobtained the remaining 1500 acre (6.1 km²) portion of Jamestown Island which had been under private ownership. The National Park Service partnered with the APVA to preserve the area and present it to visitors in an educational manner.
For the 350th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in 1957, the National Park Service restored the isthmus to Jamestown Island, making it accessible as a peninsula once again and the Commonwealth of Virginia built
Jamestown Festival Parkand has since remained as a permanent attraction.
The archaeological remains of the original 1607 fort, which had been protected by the sea wall, were discovered in 1994 by the
Jamestown Rediscoveryproject. There are two major attractions there and nearby, and there is now again much to see.
For the celebration of the 400th anniversary of its founding,
Jamestown 2007again attracted worldwide attention. Dignitaries participating in the celebration included Queen Elizabeth II, President George W. Bush, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, actor James Earl Jones, journalists such as Jim Lehrer, Gwen Ifilland Tavis Smiley, and musicians Bruce Hornsby, Ricky Skaggsand Chaka Khan. The commemoration's major partners included Colonial Williamsburg, NASA, the U.S. Mint, the U.S. Postal Service, the Virginia Arts Festival and Virginia Tech. Also in attendance were many ancestors of the original colonists, as represented by the Jamestowne Society [http://www.jamestowne.org/] .
Although Jamestown has been reborn in a way, it remains an historical site and not an actively inhabited town. Normally only the wildlife and perhaps security personnel from the U.S. Park Police regularly spend the night on the island.
Eight lost shires
Since there are currently no "
shires" in Virginia, and there have been none since the terminology was changed to "county" within a few years of their creation in the 1634, all could be considered lost to posterity, at least in name. However, of the eight shires of Virginiacreated by the Virginia House of Burgesses(predecessor to the Virginia General Assembly) and King Charles I of England in 1634, five are still extant in their original political form as counties in Virginia as of 2006, although all have lost some area and some have endured name changes. Some of their courthouses contain land records and other documents which predate the shires of 1634, although were heavily damaged during the Revolutionary War and Civil War, each of which took a heavy toll on eastern Virginia.
Extant as of 2008
The five original shires of Virginia still extant:
Charles City Shire(1634-1642-43) became Charles City County
Charles River Shire(1634-1643) became Charles River County in 1636, then York County
James City Shire(1634-1636) became James City County
Henrico Shire(1634-1642) became Henrico County
Warrosquyoake Shire(1634-1637) became Isle of Wight County
Extinct as of 2008
The three original shires of Virginia which no longer exist in their original political form:
Accomac Shire(1634-1643) (extinct)
Elizabeth River Shire(1634-1636) became Elizabeth City Shirein 1636, and then name was changed to Elizabeth City County (now extinct)
Warwick River Shire(1634-1643) became Warwick County, later City of Warwick (now extinct)
Nineteen lost counties
There were 19 counties located in parts of Virginia which are currently within the state which either no longer exist or radically changed their names.
One of these, Alexandria County (not to be confused with the City of Alexandria) left Virginia for approximately 56 years (1791-1847) to become part of the District of Columbia. 74 years after its retrocession to Virginia, its name was changed to its present name, Arlington County. At only 26 square miles, it is Virginia's smallest county in land area (and by some reckonings, the smallest county in the United States).
Two other current counties in the state re-used the names of older lost counties. These newer counties (one name earlier lost to Kentucky, the other on the following list) are respectively, Madison and Rappahannock. Both the newer counties of that name are located in Virginia's piedmont region.
The extinct counties of Virginia (alphabetically) were:
Alexandria County(1749-1791) and (1846-1920) (was part of the District of Columbia 1791-1846), changed its name to become Arlington County in 1920
*Charles River County (1637-1643) renamed York County
Dunmore County(1772-1778) renamed Shenandoah County
* Elizabeth City County (1643-1952) consolidated with the Town of Phoebus into the independent City of Hampton
Fincastle County(1772-1776) divided into Montgomery County, Washington County, and Kentucky County (the latter of which later became the state of Kentucky)
Lower Norfolk County(1637-1691) divided in Norfolk County and Princess Anne County
* Nansemond County (1646-1972) became the independent City of Nansemond (later consolidated with Suffolk)
New Norfolk County(1636-1637) divided into Lower Norfolk County and Upper Norfolk County
*Norfolk County (1691-1963) consolidated with the independent City of South Norfolk to form the independent City of Chesapeake
* Patrick Henry County (1777-1790) was split into two counties, the western part becoming Patrick County and the rest becoming Henry County.
* Princess Anne County (1691-1963) consolidated with the independent City of Virginia Beach
* Rappahannock County (1656-1692) divided into Essex County and Richmond County (not to be confused with the current capital city of the same name located elsewhere in Virginia)
Upper Norfolk County(1637-1646) became Nansemond County
* Warwick County (1643-1952) became the independent City of Warwick (later consolidated with Newport News)
ix extinct independent cities
There have been 6 cities in Virginia which are now considered to be extinct. These should not be confused with many small developments in the 17th century which were called "cities", but which we would probably call towns in modern terminology.
Virginia laws enacted late in the 20th century enabled smaller independent cities to revert (or convert) to town status, which would include rejoining a county. Advocates considered this option as a way to potentially achieve more streamlined and efficient local governmental structure. As of 2007, two small independent cities had done so; several others were reported to be considering similar action.
The "lost" independent cities of Virginia (alphabetically) were:
* City of Clifton Forge (1906-2001) reverted to become an incorporated town in Alleghany County
* City of Manchester (1874-1910) consolidated with the independent City of Richmond
* City of Nansemond (1972-1974) consolidated with the independent City of Suffolk
* City of South Boston (1960-1998) reverted to become an incorporated town in Halifax County
* City of South Norfolk (1919-present) in 1963 boundaries extended to include Norfolk County and name changed to independent City of Chesapeake
* City of Warwick (1952-1958) consolidated with the independent City of Newport News
Twelve lost incorporated towns
Many of Virginia's
incorporated towns grew to become independent cities. In fact, most of Virginia's current independent cities began that way. Examples of towns which became cities of the same name include the current cities of Charlottesville, Danville, Fredericksburg, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Williamsburg, to name only a few. The town and then city of Roanoke made its two step transition in only a couple of years, the fast growth earning the nickname "Magic City".
It is actually rare in Virginia to find a city which had not previously been incorporated as a town or, in a few instances, as a county. Only two, Hopewell and Newport News, are known to have gone into existence directly as a city without having been previously incorporated as either a town or a county. Thus, if an incorporated town became a city of the same name, it will not be listed here as extinct or lost.
The lost incorporated towns of Virginia were:
* Town of Basic City (1890-1923) consolidated with town and later the independent City of Waynesboro
* Town of Berkley (unknown-1906) became part of City of Norfolk by annexation in 1906
*Town of Big Lick (1874-1882) became town and later the independent City of Roanoke (name change)
*Town of Castlewood (1991-1997) became a town on
20 March1991. Voted for annulment of the town charter on November 41997 and was disincorporated on December 311997.
*Town of Central City (1885-1890) became town, later City of Radford (name change)
* Town of City Point (1826-1923) became part of the independent City of Hopewell by annexation in 1923
* Town of Clover (1895-1998) became a town on
December 141895. Voted for annulment of the town charter on November 31998 and was disincorporated on December 311998.
*Town of Goodson (1856-1890) became the independent City of Bristol (name change)
* Town of Kecoughtan in Elizabeth City County was annexed by the City of Newport News in 1927, although the original site settled under that name is in an adjacent area which became the Town and later City of Hampton.
* Town of Phoebus (1900-1952) agreed to consolidation with Elizabeth City County into City of Hampton in 1952
* Town of Portlock (1947?-1952) annexed by City of South Norfolk in 1952.
* Town of Potomac (1908-1930) in Arlington County became part of City of Alexandria by annexation in 1930.
Lost unincorporated towns and communities
As one might expect, there are currently hundreds of communities in Virginia which could be considered unincorporated towns. The vast majority of these simply lost their identity through name changes or growth and absorption into other municipal entities. However, while many earlier ones have disappeared in name, and are therefore "lost" as defined in this article, some really are entirely gone.
A few of the lost towns of Virginia have very dramatic stories, and, somewhat like the early settlers of Jamestown, the residents experienced more than a little hardship. While natural factors doomed Jamestown, they also literally wiped out Boyd's Ferry, which was virtually entirely destroyed by flooding of the
Dan Riverin Halifax County around 1800. That town was rebuilt across the river in a better location, and grew to become the Town of South Boston, which was even an incorporated independent city for over 25 years before the citizens decided to rejoin Halifax County as an incorporated town again in 1995.
Conflicts with Native Americans doomed several other early Virginia towns.
Henricus(also known as "Henricopolis") is now a historic site in Chesterfield County. In the early 17th century, it was a boom town with an emerging school system until the Indian Massacre of 1622wiped it out, along with Wolstenholme Towneon Martin's Hundred Plantation downriver from Jamestown in James City County. (In fairness to the Native Americans, virtually "all" of their towns and communities were eventually wiped out by the ever-expanding English settlements in the Virginia Colony.)
Taken by the government
Not all the destruction of communities which are simply no longer there occurred in the earlier times. The state and federal government each had a hand in some major actions of this type, albeit theoretically at least for the public safety and/or good.
henandoah National Park
For example, in the creation of
Shenandoah National Parkand the Skyline Drivebetween 1924 and 1936, a number of families and entire communities were required to vacate portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mostly by actions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which then ceded land to the federal government. Many residents in the 500 homes in eight affected counties of Virginia were vehemently opposed to losing their homes and communities. Most of the families removed came from Madison County, Page County, and Rappahannock County. U.S. President Herbert Hooverselected a spot on the Rapidan Riverfor what would become a 164-acre (66-hectare) presidential retreat, Rapidan Camp.
The Commonwealth of Virginia initially led by efforts of
Harry Flood Byrdused the Great Depressionand access to jobs and modern amenities such as indoor plumbing and public schools to help justify the controversial dislodging of the mountain residents. It is true that the development of the Park and the Skyline Drive created badly needed jobs for many Virginians during the Great Depression. Nearly 90% of the inhabitants of the land taken by the government worked the land for a living. Many worked in the apple orchards in the valley and in areas near the eastern slopes. The work to create the National Park and the Skyline Drive began following a terrible drought in 1930 which destroyed the crops of many families in the area who farmed in the mountainous terrain, as well as many of the apple orchards where they worked picking crops. Nevertheless, it remains a fact that they were displaced, often against their will, and even for the very few who managed to stay, their communities were lost.
A little-known fact is that, while some families were removed by force, a few others (who mostly had also become difficult to deal with) were allowed to stay after their properties were acquired, living in the park until nature took its course and they gradually died. The last to die was Annie Lee Bradley Shenk who died in 1979 at age 92. Most of the people displaced left their homes quietly. According to the
Virginia Historical Society, 85-year-old Hezekiah Lam explained, "I ain't so crazy about leavin' these hills but I never believed in bein' ag'in the Government. I signed everythin' they asked me." [http://www.vahistory.org/shenandoah.html] . Small family cemeteries were allowed to remain on the parkland, however. The lost communities and homes were a price paid for one of the country's most beautiful National Parks and scenic roadways. Seven new communities were created for the dislocated mountain people of the northern Blue Ridge. The Library of Virginiaand Shenandoah National Park each have created exhibits which chronicle these mountain people and their lost homes.
In the eastern
Virginia Peninsularegion, during World War I, Mulberry Islandin Warwick County became part of Camp Abraham Eustis, later expanded and renamed Fort Eustis. Nearby, a large tract of land in York County and a smaller portion of James City County property occupied by many primarily African Americans along the former Yorktown-Williamsburg Road in the unincorporated town of Lackey (locally known informally as "the Reservation") was taken to create a military base now known as Naval Weapons Station Yorktown. Assisted by self-educated farmer and county magistrate John Pack Roberts(born approximately 1860), and known locally as "Judge Roberts", many of the displaced residents of this area, which included landowners and tenants who were farmers and watermen were who able to obtain financial compensation and relocated to the community of Grove in nearby James City County, as well as other nearby communities. Also taken was the community of Halstead's Point.
During World War II, the U.S. Navy took over a large area in York County and a smaller area in James City County which became known as
Camp Peary. All residents of the entire towns of Magruder and Bigler's Mill were removed. Magruder had been named for Civil War Confederate General John B. Magruder, and a Civil War field hospital had occupied the site of Bigler's Mill. At Magruder. entire families and a church were compensated and relocated, with many again choosing Grove in nearby James City County. The Mt. Gilead Baptist Church on U.S. Route 60 in the Grove Community maintains cemeteries at both the old location (now on the closed base of Camp Peary) and the newer one.
Camp Peary later became well-known as "The Farm", a training facility for joint forces in the U.S. military. Although the roads and structures are still there and occupied, access to the base is still restricted. It would be fair to say that the two towns are "lost" to Virginia, albeit for purposes of national defense. Also in 1943, the site of another nearby town, Penniman, disappeared into the
Cheatham Annexcomplex, which adjoins Camp Peary, and is part of the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown.
Likewise, in northern Virginia, a
Resettlement Administrationprogram was begun to turn an area in Eastern Prince William County into a park for the nearby city of Washington, D.C.that resulted in the loss of three towns: Batestown, Hickory Ridge, and Joplin. Though some residents persisted, this changed with the onset of World War II, with the parkland becoming an Office of Strategic Servicesspy training facility. Similarly, nearby Marine Corps Base Quanticoexpanded for the war effort, engulfing the town of Kopp.
The following is a partial (alphabetically) listing of "lost" unincorporated towns and communities in Virginia, and in some instances, their dispositions:
* Algonquin Park was in Norfolk County
* Batestown became part of
Prince William Forest Park
* Bayville was in Princess Anne County
* Beahm near
Thornton Gapbecame part of Shenandoah National Park
* Beldore Hollow became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Belfield became part of Town and later the independent City of Emporia
* Belhaven became Town and independent City of Alexandria
* Bermuda City became Town of City Point (extinct; annexed by City of Hopewell)
Big Meadowsbecame part of Shenandoah National Park
* Big Ran became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Bigler's Mill in York County was taken into a U.S. Navy reservation during World War II and is now part of
* Blacks and Whites became town of Blackstone
* Blandford became part of independent City of Petersburg in 1784
* Bonaparte became the independent City of Galax
* Boyd's Ferry (1796) became Town of South Boston
* Bridgeport in Rockingham County became Bridgewater
* Broadwater was located on Hog Island on the Eastern Shore
* Brown Cove became part of Shenandoah National Park
Burnt Ordinarybecame Toano
* Buzzard's Roost was in Elizabeth City County
* Camden Mills was in Norfolk County
* Central Depot became the independent City of Radford
* Charles City Point became Town of City Point (extinct; annexed by City of Hopewell in 1923)
* Chesapeake City (not to be confused with the independent City of Chesapeake in
South Hampton Roadsarea formed in 1963) became Town of Phoebus in 1901.
* Cobham in Surry County.
* Cohoon's Bridge was in Nansemond County and was
county seatfor a time
* Cole was in Princess Anne County
* Conrad's Store became Town of Elkton
* Constance's Warehouse became the town of and later independent city of Suffolk
* Creeds was in Princess Anne County
* Cross Roads became Surry
* Cumberland was a colonial town on the south side of the
Pamunkey Riverin New Kent County which came within three votes of replacing Williamsburg as the capitol of the Virginia Colony after the Williamsburg Capitol building was burned in 1748.
* Dabb's became town of South Boston
* Dam Neck Mills was located south of Rudee Inlet in Princess Anne County, later part of the independent City of Virginia Beach
* Denbigh in Warwick County became part of the independent City of Warwick, later part of the independent City of Newport News
* Delaware became the Town of West Point
* Dinkletown became Town of Bridgeport, and later Bridgewater
* Doncastle became Barhamsville
* English Ferry became the independent City of Radford
* Euclid was in Princess Anne County
* Ewell was in James City County
* Fairfax in Culpeper County changed its name and became the incorporated Town of Culpeper (The name was quickly reused by the former Town of Providence in Fairfax County.)
* Frederick's Town became the independent City of Winchester
* Fourway became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Frazier Hollow became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Gayton was a small mining town in western Henrico County
* Glen Rock was in Princess Anne County
* Goose Pond Hollow became part of Shenandoah National Park
Grand Contraband Campwas in Elizabeth City County
* Granite became part of the independent City of Richmond
* Greenwich was in Princess Anne County
* Grove Station was in James City County
* Groveton became part of
Manassas National Battlefield Park
* Gum Grove in Warwick County was renamed Morrison, now a neighborhood of Newport News
* Halstead's Point became part of the US
Naval Weapons Station Yorktown
* Hans Meadows became the Town of Christiansburg
* Hart's Bottom became the City of Buena Vista
* Hazel became part of Shenandoah National Park
Henricuswas wiped out by the Indian Massacre of 1622and not rebuilt.
Henry Town, 17th century colonial settlement, later part of the independent City of Virginia Beach
* Hickory Ridge became part of
Prince William Forest Park
* Hicksford, also known as Hick's Ford, became part of Town and later the independent City of Emporia
* Holland became part of City of Nansemond, later the independent City of Suffolk
* Holly Creek became Town of Clintwood
* Hungary in Henrico County became Glen Allen
* Ingle's Ferry became the independent City of Radford
* Isle of Wight Plantation was a town in what is now Isle of Wight County
* Jeffs was in York County
* Jerusalem became Town of Courtland
* Joplin became part of
Prince William Forest Park
* Kecoughtan (settled 1610) became part of the Town and later independent City of Hampton, although a nearby area incorporated as a town under the same name became part of the city of Newport News in 1926.
* Kelton became Lightfoot in James City County
* Keyser Run became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Kopp became part of
Marine Corps Base Quantico
* Lackey in York County was taken into a U.S. Navy reservation during World War I and is now part of the
Naval Weapons Station Yorktownfacility
* Lamb's Mill became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Liberty became Town and later the independent City of Bedford
* Little Island Station was located in Princess Anne County
* Lorraine was located in Henrico County
* Lovely Mount became the independent City of Radford
* Magruder in York County was taken into a U.S. Navy reservation during World War II and is now part of the
* McIntosh's Cross Roads became Surry
* Mellen was located in Warwick County
Middle Plantation(1632) was renamed in 1699 became Town and later the independent City of Williamsburg
* Mill Place in Augusta County became town and City of Staunton
* Millwood became the incorporated Town of Phoebus, later part of the independent City of Hampton
* Minnieville became part of Dale City in
Prince William County
* Morrison was in Warwick County, now a neighborhood of Newport News
* Mt. Pleasant became the town of Mt. Jackson
Mulberry Islandwas a farming and fishing community in Warwick County which became part of a U.S. Army Camp during World War which is now Fort Eustis.
* Newmarket Corners was in Elizabeth City County
* New Fincastle (1756) in Craig County became incorporated town of New Castle in 1911.
* New Hope Village in Caroline County became Bowling Green in 1803.
* New Market was a village in eastern Henrico County
* New Market in southeastern Nelson County became Norwood
* Newtown was the
county seatof Princess Anne County before the American Revolutionary War
* Nicholson Hollow became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Ocean View became part of the independent City of Norfolk
* Odd was in York County
* Old Rag became part of Shenandoah National Park (the mountain of the same name is still there)
* Opequon became the independent City of Winchester
* Osborne (or Osborne's) was located on the James River at the mouth of Proctor's Creek
* Penniman in York County became part of
Cheatham Annex(military reservation)
* Persimmon Orchard in Nansemond County became Driver.
* Peter's Point in 1784 became part of Town and later the independent City of Petersburg
* Pocahontas (not to be confused with the current incorporated Town of Pocahontas in Tazewell County) became part of the independent City of Petersburg in 1784
* Port Conway was across the
Rappahannock Riverfrom Port Royal
Port Walthallwas located in Chesterfield County on the Appomattox River
* Port Warwick was a town in Chesterfield County on the James River at Falling Creek (destroyed during the
American Revolutionary Warand not rebuilt)
* Town of Potomac was annexed by the City of Alexandria
* Prince's Flats became the independent City of Norton
* Princess Anne became part of the independent City of Virginia Beach
* Providence changed its name to become the Town of Fairfax and later the independent City of Fairfax
* Punch Bowl (aka Punch Bowl Hollow) became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Ravenscroft became part of the independent City of Petersburg in 1744
* Rio Vista was in Henrico County on the Westham Plank Road
* Rocklin became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Rocky Ridge became Town of and later City of Manchester, now part of City of Richmond
* Roseland Farms became the incorporated Town of Phoebus, and later part of the independent City of Hampton
* Scuffletown became Surry
* Six Mile Ordinary became Lightfoot in James City County
Skyland Resort(1895), a privately-owned resort which became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Slabtown in Elizabeth City County
* Sleepy Hole in Nansemond County became the town and later City of Suffolk
* Smithville became Surry
* Spring Hill became part of the independent City of Manchester, later part of the independent City of Richmond
* Strawberry Banks became the incorporated Town of Phoebus, later part of the independent city of Hampton
* Sydney became part of the independent City of Richmond
Taskinas Plantationbecame Croaker
* Teasville became Waynesboro
* Tinkling became town of Kenbridge
* Titustown was in Norfolk County
* Upper Pocosin became part of Shenandoah National Park
* Town of Varina was county seat of Henrico County, now just a historic farm
* Wangle Junction
* Warwick Towne was in Warwick County, later part of the independent City of Newport News
Wash Woodswas located at today's False Cape State Parkin the City of Virginia Beach
* Wayland Crossing was renamed Crozet for
Claudius Crozetin 1870
* Westham was in Henrico County on the Westham Plank Road
* Whaleyville became part of the independent City of Nansemond, later the independent City of Suffolk
* White House Landing was located on the Pamunkey River in New Kent County.
* Willard (also known as Willard Crossroads) was an unincorporated community demolished in 1958 to make room for
Dulles International Airport
* Williamson Station became Town of Clifton Forge
Wolstenholme Townewas wiped out by the Indian Massacre of 1622and not rebuilt
* Yorke was a town in York County which no longer exists
* Yorkville was in York County
Virginia has also hosted a number of fictional sites. Among these are those used in the family television series "
The Waltons", created by Virginian Earl Hamner, Jr.The fictional Walton's Mountain was patterned after Hamner's hometown of Schuyler in Nelson County near Charlottesville, all of which are extant.
Interstate 64or U.S. Highway 29a few miles away will be able to find Schuyler and the Walton's Mountain Museum, however. As far as can be determined, John Boy Walton's alma mater, Boatwright University, is also lost, although it bears a striking resemblance to the University of Richmond.
South Hampton Roads
List of extinct U.S. counties
*Hiden, Martha W. "How justice grew : were Virginia counties, an abstract of their formation" (1957), University Press of Virginia; Charlottesville, Virginia
*Salmon, Emily J., and Edward D. C. Campbell, Jr., "Hornbook of Virginia History" 4th edition (1994), Library of Virginia; Richmond. ISBN 0-88490-177-7
*Temple, David G. "Merger Politics: Local Government Consolidation in Tidewater Virginia" (1972), University Press of Virginia; Charlottesville, Virginia
*McCartney, Martha W. (1977) "James City County: Keystone of the Commonwealth"; James City County, Virginia; Donning and Company; ISBN 089865999X
* [https://www.denix.osd.mil/denix/Public/ES-Programs/Conservation/Bucket/ch7.html "Cast Down Your Buckets Where You Are"] An Ethnohistorical Study of the African-American Community on the Lands of the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station 1865-1918
* [http://www.virginiaplaces.org/ Virginia Places]
* [http://www.vahistory.org/shenandoah.html Shenandoah National Park]
* [http://www.illinois.gov/facts/history.cfm Illinois Facts]
* [http://kentucky.gov/Portal/Category/fac_history Kentucky geography and history]
* [http://www.15122.com/YOHOGANIA/ Yohogania County]
* [http://web.ukonline.co.uk/lordcornell/iwhr/va/iwplant.htm Isle of Wight Plantation]
* [http://www.retroweb.com/lynchburg/attractions/ "Little-Known" Attractions of Lynchburg and Central Virginia] Lynchburg's infamous "alternate reality" web site
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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