Port Royal, Virginia

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Port Royal is an incorporated town in Caroline County, Virginia, United States. The population was 170 at the 2000 census.

Port Royal was established in the mid-17th century in the Colony of Virginia primary as a port on a navigable portion of the Rappahannock River for export of tobacco, Virginia's cash crop. Along an early stage road, it later became a crossroads along the busy modern highways of U.S. Route 17 and U.S. Route 301.



Port Royal is one of the area's more historic towns. It was first established in 1652 as a port on a navigable portion of the Rappahannock River during an era when waterways were the major method of transportation of people and property in the British Colony of Virginia. It was an important point for export of tobacco, Virginia's cash crop.

Local tradition holds that Port Royal was named after the Roy family. Dorothy Roy and her husband John owned a warehouse chartered by the crown, a ferry service across the Rappahannock River to King George County and a tavern. In the 21st century, the chimneys of the Roy house are preserved landmarks in the town.[3]

Port Royal was incorporated as a town in 1744. The "town green", upon which stands today the Town Hall and the firehouse, was forever reserved "for public and civic use".[4]

Shipping of property from the port began to decline after completion of railroads which began in Virginia in the 1830s. The last scheduled passenger ship service ended in 1932, supplanted by highways. However, Port Royal was served by the new highways which became U.S. Route 17 and U.S. Route 301, with their crossroads at Port Royal.

Probably Port Royal's most notable claim to fame is that John Wilkes Booth was killed about two miles outside town by Sgt. Boston Corbett, part of a contingent of federal troops, at the now obsolete Garrett farmstead (look for prominent markers along northbound Rt. 301) on April 26, 1865 after Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on the night of April 14, 1865 in Ford's Theater in Washington, DC. President Lincoln died the next morning at the Petersen House, across the street from the theater. Booth escaped through southern Maryland and across the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers before being cornered in a tobacco barn on the Garrett farm. Shot through the neck and instantly paralyzed, Booth died on the porch of the Garrett house (carried there after falling in the barn) a few hours after being pierced by the bullet as the sun broke the horizon that morning. One of his accomplices in the murder who was with him and captured at the Garrett farm, Davey Herold, was tried, convicted and hanged that summer.

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