Smithfield, Virginia

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Smithfield is a town in Isle of Wight County, in the South Hampton Roads subregion of the Hampton Roads region of Virginia in the United States. The population was 6,324 at the 2000 census.


History and industry

Smithfield, first colonized in 1634, is located on the Pagan River, not far from Jamestown. The Native Americans knew this area as Warascoyak, also spelled Warrosquoyacke, meaning “point of land.”

The town, established in 1752 by Arthur Smith IV as a seaport and incorporated in 1921, is most famous for the curing and production of the Smithfield ham. The Virginia General Assembly passed a statute defining Smithfield ham by law in 1926.

There were both Revolutionary and Civil War actions in and around the town mostly due to its proximity to the James River.

Smithfield is a river town, and its life and growth were dependent on the river until the fire of 1921 which destroyed its peanut warehouses and its growing peanut businesses. The peanut trade moved to the nearby railroad town of Suffolk.

Currently, Smithfield Foods, a Fortune 500 Company that owns Smithfield Packing Company and others, is the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. The company, based in Smithfield, raises 12 million and processes 20 million hogs annually.

Smithfield's Historic District boasts over 70 buildings of exceptional architectural importance, including residences of the Colonial, Federal, and Victorian periods. Sites of historic interest in Smithfield include the 1750 Court House, the adjacent colonial tavern that is now the Smithfield Inn, the Isle of Wight Museum, the Schoolhouse Museum, and Windsor Castle Park. You may visit the Mansion on Main showplace home of a Victorian era "Virginian of Virginians," R.S. Thomas (1837-1915)-- restored by Sala Clark in the late 1990s -- whose 1889 "urban" Queen Ann style mansion changed the face of Smithfield (colonial and cottage), and whose efforts helped to save a nearby National Landmark, the 1632 St. Luke's Church. “Only a sketch, en silhouette, can we give of another devoted friend of this Society, Richard S. Thomas of Smithfield, whose most salient characteristic, if we may term it so, was his devotion to Virginia... Steeped in Colonial lore, a first-and student of Virginia records, he was an enthusiastic member of this Society, and published several valuable monographs, which brought him no small reputation among scholars... We, who knew him long and well, entertain no misgivings that we yield him the tribute that he himself would have most prized when we say simply that he lived and died “a Virginian of Virginians.” [“Proceedings of the Virginia Historical Society at its Annual Meeting held in the House of the Society on February 25, 1915,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 23, xxxi – xxxiii]

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