in the an initial half the the 1700"s, colonial settlement progressed westward previous the loss Line and major port cities such together Fredericksburg arisen on the Appomattox, James, Rappahannock, and also Potomac riversSource: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

Virginia has actually been combined into the worldwide economy since Christopher Newport lugged the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery indigenous England to jamestown in 1607. Indigenous the beginning, Virginia had actually port urban - yet for the first century, that had very few.

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The very first colonial port was Jamestown, come which the Virginia firm sent re-supply expeditions. When settlement expanded past the protection of the fort, wharves were constructed on the riverbank and warehouses built along River roadway in brand-new Town.

The company"s leader in Virginia sent workers to construct a ft at Old point Comfort, where ships an initial stopped to acquire fresh water and news. Lot later, the site grew into the port city the Hampton. Upstream of the site, the Chesapeake and also Ohio (C&O) Railroad built a coal exporting basic after the polite War and also Newport News developed.

In the very first decade the colonization, the English who cleared up in Virginia establish that farming tobacco was the best way to gain wealth. Many of the farms carved out the the forests in Tidewater had actually their own loading clues on a navigable river, whereby ships from Europe stopped to load hogsheads the tobacco.

Colonists got land on tidewater "necks" next to the Chesapeake Bay. Hauling tobacco and other plants from farms to the rivers forced only a quick trip end the dirt trails. Together the colonial populace grew and Native Americans to be displaced, land to be cleared additional away from the flow edges. Ranches were produced in the center of the Peninsula, middle Peninsula, and Northern Neck from the west to the autumn Line, but no communities were arisen .

Chesapeake only "necks" (peninsulas the land surrounded by water) were settled before communities were developed in the colonySource: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

There to be no advantage to clustering development. Transparent the 1600"s the basic Assembly had actually to happen special legislation mandating ships stop at Jamestown and subsidizing the construction of real estate there, simply to keep that city in Virginia.

Gradually, part concentrations of people emerged follow me the Chesapeake just to assistance the fishing industry. City such together Onancock in Accomack County occurred as transfer places for fishermen to market their hauls to local customers, and then to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and brand-new York.

The most dramatic development was Reedville in Northumberland County. It became the center for the menhaden fishery, and the riches resulting that service can be perceived today in the grand Victorian homes in that town.

the historic Morris residence in Reedville, through 4,864 square feet of life space, was noted for sale in 2016 v a price the $1,595,000Source: Mary citizen - RE/MAX Commonwealth

The first urban areas developed in Tidewater since they were great locations for ports come handle international trade. Yorktown, at the mouth of the York River, flourished until that devastation in 1781 throughout the American Revolution.

Norfolk thrived into a port city practically a century ~ initial negotiation of Virginia. Its terrific harbor top top the Elizabeth River available shelter native storms and also pirates, yet the an ar was exposed to assault by Spanish, Dutch, and French warships. The initial homesteaders in 1607 recognized the benefits of ships being able to safely continue to be in Hampton Roads, but moved upstream to obtain out of with of potential european enemies.

The sandy soils in the Elizabeth River and Nansemond flow watersheds produced poor tobacco, yet the an ar did provide lumber, pork, and also produce necessary by the street Islands in the Caribbean too as seaside cities in phibìc America. Settlers might make a benefit shipping food and also timber assets from the safeguarded harbors of Norfolk, which were the closest to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

Norfolk additionally grew together the export/import facility for northeastern north Carolina. Barrier islands on the northern part of Albemarle Sound clogged ships native easy accessibility to the Atlantic Ocean, incentivizing port development in the Chesapeake only watershed. Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk handled much of the shipping to and also from the Albemarle country. Petersburg likewise competed for the profession that came under the Roanoke River and also was transported by road and later rail because that shipping via the Chesapeake Bay.

Suffolk prospered on the nanemond River, thanks in component to profession from phibìc CarolinaSource: Library the Congress, A map of the most inhabited component of Virginia include the whole province of Maryland with component of Pensilvania, new Jersey and North Carolina

Norfolk was destroyed by the American rebels in ~ the very start the 1776, in part to prevent Lord Dunmore and the British native making it a basic of support and also in component because the Scottish and English sellers were not strong supporters that the American Revolution. That was soon rebuilt, and Portsmouth emerged on the western side of the Elizabeth River. Norfolk was the main populace rival come the state funding at Richmond until the 1950"s, as soon as its neighbors included as live independence cities and also blocked Norfolk from expanding its boundaries through annexation.

Norfolk and also Portsmouth waterfronts ~ above the Elizabeth river waterfront, about 1891Source: Library of congress - Bird"s eye check out of Norfolk, Portsmouth and also Berkley, Norfolk Co., Va.

In the 1700"s, cities on the Appomattox, James, Rappahannock, and Potomac rivers in ~ the loss Line occurred as ports. Ships could not proceed sailing upstream, so trading stations and warehouses were constructed at the rapids. Jamestown and also Norfolk got started first, yet the ancient geological boundary separating the coastal Plain and the Piedmont identified the location of the Virginia"s significant port cities.

Alexandria waterfront, 1863Source: Library of congress - bird eye view of Alexandria, Va.

Petersburg, Richmond, Fredericksburg, and also Alexandria flourished into city centers since of their loss Line locations. Those ports transport tobacco and grain come the Caribbean and also Europe, and also then come Baltimore, Philadelphia, new York, Boston, and also Charleston and also other populace centers that arised on the east Coast.

From the start of colonization, Virginia relied ~ above trade. Over there were few subsistence ranches on the coastal Plain and also Piedmont. Crops, especially tobacco, to be grown in surplus beyond local demand and shipped to market. Hauling farming products come Virginia"s port urban was a challenge before rail lines and also turnpikes to be constructed, however the headache was worth the cost. Once plants got come a port city, farmers had broadened the number of potential buyers and also would receive higher prices.

Virginia"s first ports occurred in the Chesapeake only watershed, and also products native the Chowan River and Roanoke river watersheds were transported by boat and also wagon come Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth and PetersburgSource: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

Some ports on the fall Line failed to grow since they never emerged a network the roads, canals, and railroads to connect with a "hinterland" come the west. The majority of marketable products came from not from nearby neighbors, but from farmer on the Piedmont life as far west as the basic of the Blue Ridge itself.

Dumfries was hired on the an extremely same day as Alexandria and also supported through the exact same Scotch merchants, however no inland relations up Quantico Creek were funded. After the watershed that Quantico Creek to be deforested by tobacco farming and charcoal manufacturing for the Neabsco stole Works, sediment filled increase the harbor and also Dumfries withered together a port.

Alexandria built a transportation network right into the Piedmont and even across the Blue Ridge via the Manassas gap Railroad, but Dumfries failed to growSource: Library of Congress, A map that the many inhabited component of Virginia comprise the whole province of Maryland with part of Pensilvania, new Jersey and also North Carolina

the ar of the original harbor at Dumfries (red oval) is now between Route 1"s northbound and also southbound lanesSource: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

Occoquan and also Colchester were rival port on either side of the Occoquan river in the 1700"s. Colchester associated to the inland marker via Old Ox Road, a "rolling road" used for oxen to pull hogsheads packed with tobacco to the wharf.

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According to neighborhood lore, Ox roadway was constructed initially to ship copper ore ago to England. Robert "King" Carter had uncovered a promise deposit in ~ what this day is Frying Pan Park in Fairfax County. The planned to ship it phibìc on a brand-new road reduced through the woods the what to be then Stafford county to a brand-new wharf on the potomac River near small Falls, and to violin the ore from that site.

However, Carter"s rival thomas Lee patented every the an ideal land follow me the shoreline first in 1729. Both guys were well acquainted with the patenting process, due to the fact that each at various times had been land agent for lord Fairfax. At the time, Robert Carter to be serving in that role. Carter"s solution was to move the ore south, and also he had a road built in between Frying Pan and the coastline of the Occoquan flow downstream from the city of Occoquan. Colchester arisen as the brand-new port there.1

Robert Carter"s copper deposit quickly proved to be uneconomical to mine, yet the variety of hogsheads traction to Colchester to export tobacco led to the surname "Ox Road."

Occoquan was no any much more successful together a port city the Colchester or Dumfries; shippers made decision to focus on Alexandria. Occoquan eventually survived due to the fact that merchants there utilized the waterpower in ~ the autumn Line to run mills grind grain and also bellows for an steel forge. The success that Alexandria, v a better road an later rail relationships to the interior, restricted the growth of Occoquan, Colchester, and also Dumfries as contending port cities on the grape max River.

Occoquan developed a road (blue) come intercept trade going come Colchester via the Old Ox road (yellow)Source: Library of Congress, A map the Fairfax County, and also parts of Loudoun and Prince wilhelm Counties, Va., and also the district of Columbia

the Fairfax county Park government has carried out extensive archeological researches at ColchesterSource: Fairfax County, A cultural History tour of Old Colchester Park and also Preserve

Richmond and Petersburg started in the 1730"s, as soon as William Byrd II chose to survey and also sell land in ~ the autumn Line the the Appomattox and also James rivers. It took 125 years for enough homesteaders to move up the James river from the initial ar at Jamestown and also justify the development of the 2 port cities. Richmond propelled the James River and Kanawha Canal west the the Blue Ridge, drawing trade come the autumn Line of the James River. Petersburg sponsor the south Side Railroad link to Lynchburg, contending for the exact same business.

Richmond might load shallow-draft ships at the base of Church Hill, whereby Shockoe Creek gotten in the James River. As ships grew larger, Richmond constructed a deepwater terminal further downstream, but city leaders known they needed also deeper water for larger ships.

To preserve its shipping trade, Richmond developed a railroad to West suggest at the junction that the Mattaponi and also Pamunkey, the begin of the York River. Petersburg walk the same, and also built a rail to depth water at City suggest (now part of Hopewell).

Petersburg developed a rail to City Point, and also Richmond obtained access to a deeper-water port in 1861 by creating a railroad to Delaware city (renamed West Point) on the York RiverSource: Library the Congress, Lloyd"s main map of the state the Virginia indigenous actual surveys by bespeak of the executive 1828 & 1859

No city exists in a government vacuum. State-supported transportation improvements were well-known from the beginning as tools for increasing populace and wealth of one city, regularly at the expense of another.

Norfolk"s expansion demonstrates the impact of political location as lot as the physical location of Virginia. Richmond and Petersburg make the efforts to border the shipping company on the Elizabeth River, and to block Portsmouth or Norfolk native benefitting from the inland profession of the Roanoke and James flow watersheds. Petersburg service leaders in certain blocked rail connections in between the Roanoke River and also Norfolk, in order to draw away trade phibìc to the Appomattox river port.

Every beforehand Virginia city to be a port other than one - Williamsburg.

Unique in the advance of the state, Williamsburg was situated on the watershed divide in between College and Queens creeks on higher ground where the roads tended come dry out sooner ~ rains. The 2nd capital was thought about to be healthier 보다 Jamestown, being far from the swamps and brackish drink water.

Originally known as "Middle Plantation," that was located in the middle between the James and York rivers. Over there were initiatives to construct a canal come Williamsburg, but in contrast to Jamestown and Richmond no ship ever tied up in ~ wharves of that capital city.

Why Virginia"s Cities and also Towns Are situated Where they Are

Williamsburg emerged as a town, even though it was not a port, due to the fact that it was the resources of the colony between 1699-1780Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online


Virginia travel Corporation


1. "Lost communities of Fairfax County," connection Newspapers, in march 1, 2018, http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2018/mar/01/lost-towns-fairfax-county/; Fairfax Harrison, Landmarks of Old Prince William, 1924, pp.422-425, https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/eptTtB5CqcwC (last checked April 17, 2020)

Portsmouth waterfront in 1950Source: David Rumsey historical Map Collection, Portsmouth (Virginia) (Nirenstein"s nationwide Realty Map Co., 1950)