Powhatan County, Virginia

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Powhatan County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The James River forms its northern border and the Appomattox River is on the south side. The county is named for the paramount chief of the powerful confederacy of tribes of Algonquian-speaking Native Americans in the Tidewater in 1607, when the British settled at Jamestown. Historically the area had been occupied by the Monacan, and in 1700 French Huguenot refugees settled at their abandoned village, known as Manakin Town.

Powhatan County, which in the early 21st century has both rural and suburban landscapes, is located southwest of Richmond along U.S. Route 60 in the Richmond-Petersburg region. It is a portion of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). As of the 2000 census, the population was 22,377. Its county seat is Powhatan.[1]

Contents

History

See Native American tribes in Virginia

Before the arrival of Europeans in the 17th century, the Piedmont area was populated by Native Americans. Among these were the Monacan tribe, who were Siouan speaking and were recorded as having several villages west of what the colonists called Manakin Town. They and other Siouan tribes traditionally competed with and were in conflict with the members of the Powhatan Confederacy, Algonquian-speaking tribes who generally inhabited the Tidewater area. They also were subject to raid by Iroquois from the North. By the end of the 17th century, the Monacan had been decimated by warfare and disease and had been absorbed into other Siouan tribes.

In 1700, about 700-800 French Huguenot religious refugees on four ships arrived at Jamestown from London, having been promised by the Crown land grants and settlement in Lower Norfolk County. Many of them had been merchants and artisans in London, which was overflowing with refugees from French Catholic persecution. As the tobacco plantations along the James River were dependent upon shipping, the area above the head of navigation at the fall line had not yet been settled. Claiming the Norfolk area was unhealthful (although it became an area of entrepreneurs), Francis Nicholson, governor of the colony, and William Byrd, a wealthy and influential planter, offered the French settlement at Manakin Town, an abandoned Monacan village about 20 miles above the falls of the James River. They wanted a buffer from Virginia Indians for the English settlements, and Byrd hoped to develop land which he held in that area.[2] The falls area later became the settlement of Richmond, Virginia and capital of the state.

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