Eastern Henrico HistoryBack to Pocahontas 895 Home
- Civil War
- Agriculture & Industry
- Settlers & Native Americans
When the vote on secession was taken on May 24, 1861, Henricoans voted unanimously for secession. Little did they realize that their county would be the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting during the war that was to come.
It would be a war that ended the institution of slavery and one that left a scene of desolation on both sides of the three lines of fortifications that would be cut deep into Henrico soil to protect the city of Richmond.
During the war, new weapons would be introduced on Henrico soil. Balloons for aerial observation would be used by both sides, as would early versions of machine guns. Both of these innovations appeared on the battlefields of Fair Oaks-Seven Pines just east of the airport. The first use of railroad artillery occurred during the battle Savage Station (June 29, 1862) some five miles east of the airport.
During the 1864 campaign, the Confederates introduced land mines called sub-terra shells to reinforce their thinly held lines. These were nothing more than artillery shells with pressure-sensitive fuses that would explode when stepped on by attacking troops.
The intensity of fighting resulted in 51,842 officially verified casualties reported as killed, wounded and captured or missing on Henrico soil (24,116 Confederate and 27,726 Union).
The first incursion on Henrico soil occurred during General George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. On May 20, 1862, elements of the Federal IV Corps, under General Erasmus Keyes, crossed the Chickahominy River into Henrico at Bottoms Bridge one and a half miles east of the airport. Keyes' entire corps crossed into Henrico and advanced up Williamsburg Road to Seven Pines, six miles east of the airport.
Agriculture & Industry
Geologically, Henrico County contains various layers, or strata, consisting of granite and coal along the falls of the upper James River above the city of Richmond, which give way to pockets of clay, sand and gravel. The elevation is higher in the western part of the county and gradually decreases toward the east end. The James River, on the county's southern boundary, is a fast-flowing waterway. The Chickahominy River on its northern boundary has a much slower flow of water and tends to overflow its banks into low marshy lands after heavy rains. South of the airport, the White Oak Swamp serves to drain the area south of the city into the Chickahominy.
Geologists theorize that thousands of years ago, the east end of the county was under water, and over the years, it has drained off, leaving vestiges of nature's drainage system. The soil is generally fine fertile soil with pockets of plasticity caused by the presence of clay deposits sometimes mixed with sand and gravel.
The area that the Airport Connector traverses is generally flat fertile soil with some major clay deposits just north and south of the airport. The first English settlers used the waterways as their highways, and they naturally settled along the banks of the rivers. Later settlers had to move beyond the rivers. Initially, settlers tended to grow what they needed to survive and to grow crops for export. The use of African slaves as farm laborers appeared in Henrico County after 1635, the year the first resident received land based on transporting slaves to the colony.
Settlers & Native Americans
The present geographical-political area known as Henrico County can trace its origins back to 1634. In that year, it was established as one of the eight original shires of Virginia and included all the land on both sides of the James River from Charles City County west to the mountains. In time nine counties, part of another county, and the cities of Richmond, Colonial Heights and Charlottesville would be cut from Henrico. Today, the county is 245 square miles in size.
When the English settlers came in 1607, they discovered the tidewater area was inhabited by Algonquian tribes who had moved down from the north during the sixteenth century. They had occupied the coastal plains from New England to central North Carolina. By the beginning of the 17th century, they were restricted to the land east of the fall line. Nearly all the tribes in the Virginia Tidewater were members of a chiefdom ruled by Wahunsonacock, also known as Powhatan. When he inherited control around 1595, there were six tribes, all within 50 miles of the falls on the James. Within a few years, he brought at least 25 tribes under his control.
Powhatan's empire was subdivided into tribes, or tribal divisions, and each had a well-defined territory. Each division had a governmental hierarchy consisting of the cockarouse or sachem; the werowance, or war leader; the tribal council; and the priests.