Henrico County was founded in 1611. The county seat is Richmond, Virginia. The earliest of records which include deeds, orders and wills has been microfilmed even though the documents themselves are quite faded.
Henricopolis: A Second Town
By Jeannette Holland Austin
Pictured is a reconstructed church of the 17th century. The original settlement was founded by Sir Thomas Dale in 1611 as an alternative to the swampy and dangerous surroundings of Jamestown and was named for Prince Henry, the eldest son of King James I. This site later became part of the Shire of Henrico (1634), renamed Henrico County in 1637. In 1749, that portion of Henrico County that lay south of the James River was detached to form the present-day Chesterfield County. After the visible 1609 decay of the town, the erection of a second town was commenced. Within four months the structures, hospital, framed dwellings on the edge of the river, and one brick home, were more substantial than Jamestown. Nevertheless the new settlement soon showed the same symptoms of decline as Jamestown. The buildings were decaying and in need of constant repair. Source: Ralph Hamor's "True Discourse", p. 30.
One of the early investors in Virginia, Sir Thomas Dale, departed Jamestown in the later summer of 1611 with a strong force of 300 men to proceed up river to establish a new settlement. This settlement was expected to be the chief seat of the Colony and its purpose was to remove the fear of Spanish invaders to the colony. In other words, it would serve as a defensive fortress in the wilderness country. The reason was that the settlers were generally dissatisfied with the Jamestown location. The town was to be named Henrico in honor of a protector and patron of the colony, Henry, Prince of Wales. While Marshal Dale took a party upstream by boat while the larger part of settlers went overland, led by Captain Edward Brewster. But the latter party was met with resistance from the Indian chief, Munetute whom the Englishmen referred to as "Jacke of the Feathers". After various skirmishes with the Indians, however, Dale and Brewster rendezvoused at the appointed place where they began construction of a fort on a peninsula which jutted into the James River from the north side several miles below the Arrahatock village while the Indians continued their protests. In about fifteen days, Dale had impaled seven acres of ground and then set to work to build watch towers upon each of the five corners of the town. They also constructed a church and some storehouses. After this was accomplished, houses and lodgings were constructed for Dale and his men. The site was two miles inland and it ran from river to river making an island of the neck upon which Henrico stood. Presumably this palisade faced a ditch. But the project cost Dale his life, but Dale Laws prevailed, punishing deserters and law breakers. George Percy related the results in graphic terms. Some "in a moste severe manner cawsed to be executed. Some he appointed to be hanged, some burned, some to be broken upon wheles, others to be staked and some to be shott to deathe; all theis extreme and crewell tortures he used and inflicted upon them to terrefy the reste for attemptinge the like." Yet these stern measures produced results and few of his contemporary associates took issue including John Rolfe, Ralph Hamor, Reverend Alexander Whitaker and even Sir Edwin Sandys. To them, motivated by the spirit of the time, hard conditions required stern handling. During the year of 1612, Robert Johnson evaluated the new settlement as he saw it: "the colony is removed up the river forescore miles further beyond Jamestown to a place of high ground, strong and defensible by nature, a good air, wholesome and clear, unlike the marshy seat at Jamestown, with fresh and plenty of water springs, much fair and open grounds freed from woods, and wood enough at hand." In 1614 Hamor described the town here as having " three streets of well framed howses, a hansom Church, and the foundations of a more stately one laid, of brick, in length one hundred foote, and fifty foot wide, beside store houses, watch houses, and such like." Near it, and behind the pale, was a great quantity of ground corn, enough to support the whole Colony and easy for manuring and husbandry. Yet not more than two years had passed before the " "Citty of Henricus" had retrogressed, perhaps, out of emphasis on Bermuda City just down river. At this time there were only 38 men and boys in Henrico. Even though the "citty" continued its decline, the Incorporation carried on its name. In 1619 Henrico was reported to have had but a few old houses, and a "ruinated" Church. It continued, however, as a fixed community until it was finally destroyed by the Indians during the famous massacre of March 22, 1622. After the tally was made, however, only five were killed at Henrico Island. Virginia History Gazette
Genealogy Records available to members of Virginia Pioneers
- Marriages to 1699
- Henrico County Marriages 1780 to 1861
Miscellaneous Wills and Estates
- Index to Settlements and Estates 1770 to 1787
Digital Images of Wills 1650 to 1717
- Michaux, Abraham (1717)
- Perkins,, Nicholas, LWT, transcript (1711)
- Randolph, Peter
Testators: Bowen, John;Childers, Abraham; Clerk, Allison;Cooke, Richard;Frazier, William;French, Christopher Jr.;Ham, Martin;Holmes, Thomas;Jones, Thomas; Knight, Anthony;Lester, Edward;Lettus, Thomas;Moons, Abraham; Nolls, Philip;Perrin, Ann;Perrin, Richard;Pew, Henry;Pleasants, John;Randolph, William;Watson, Benjamin;Wells, Thomas
Digital Images of Wills 1678 to 1693
Testators: Bridgewater, Samuel;Clerk, John;Cole, John;Davis, John;Ealane, William;Epes, Elizabeth;Harwin, John; Partridge, John;Randolph, Judith;West, John
Digital Images of Wills 1717-1726
Testators: Archer, John;Barnes, John;Bowman, Edward; Brickett, John Sr.;Browne, Martha;Childers, Abraham Sr.;Corse, Margaret;Dutoit, Peter;Esley, Ann;Farriss, John;Goss, Peter; Griggs, Charles;Hancock, Johan;Hill, Henry;Hudspeath, Ralph; Leister, Aaron;Lufter, Henry;Martin, Richard;Pleasants, Joseph; Pledge, John;Porter, John;Powell, Charles;Pursel, Philip;Roberts, Morris;Roberts, Morris;Stovall, Bartholomew;Tanner, Edward;Turpin, Philip
Digital Images of Wills and Settlements 1770 to 1787
Albert, Francis;Allen, Isham;Allen, Julius;Allen, Littleberry; Allen, Timothy;Arbathriot, Dorotha;Austin, Mary; Bailey, Joseph; Bailey, Joseph, estate; Bailey, Peter;Baine, Robert;Bentley, Thomas;Bethell, Thomas;Binford, James;Bottom, John;Bowles, Thomas;Bridgewater, James;Brockett, John;Brown, JosephBrown, Robert;Brown, Robert, inventory;Brown, Samuel;Bullington, William;Bullington, William, estate;Burton, John;Cahill, Barney; Carter, John;Chelsey, Thomas;Childress, Frederick;Clark, Peter; Coutts, Patrick;Coutts, William;Cox, George;Duval, Robert, estate;Duvall, Samuel;Edwards, John;Ellis, George;Ellis, Jesse; Ellis, John;Ellis, Thomas;Evans, Thomas;Farriss, William; Farriss, William, estate;Fenton, Thomas;Ford, David;Ford, Samuel; Fussell, Solomon;Gathright, Ann;Gathright,Benjamin;Gathright, John, inventory;Gathright, William;Gathright, William Sr.; Giles, Nicholas;Goodes, Edward;Greenley, David;Gunn, James;Hales, John;Harbert, Mathew;Harris, Joshua;Harwood, John;Harwood, Samuel;Hay, John;Hay, Peter;Hughes, Charles, estate;Hutchings, John;Hutchings,Joseph;Hutchings, Joseph, inventory;Johnson, Benjamin, inventory;Johnson, Michael;Jones, Samuel;Kent, John; Lewis, Robert;Liggins, John;Lockley, John;Logan, John, appraisement; Maddox, William;Matthews, Anthony;Matthews, Charles Matthews, Thomas;Mitchell, Samuel;Moon, Richard;Mosby, Benjamin; New, William;Owens, William;Parker, John;Pleasant, John;Pleasant, Jonathan;Pleasant, Joseph;Powell, Robin;Price, Elizabeth;Price, John (inventory);Price, Samuel;Puryear, Peter;Puryear, Thomas; Randolph, Peter;Randolph, Peyton;Randolph, Peyton, appraisement; Randolph, Richard;Randolph, Ryland;Redford, Milner;Roberson, William;Robertson, William;Rockett, Baldwin;Scheror, George; Shackleton, John;Sharpe, Henry;Sheapard, Samuel;Shepard, Joseph, inventory;Sheppard, William;Simons, John;Smith, John;Sneed, Thomas;Sneed, William;Spears, John;Thornton, Sterling;Stone, Thomas;Turman, John;Warnock, Frederick;Warriner, Richard; Warriner, Thomas, inventory;Watkins, Thomas;Watkins, Thomas Jr.; White, David;White, Elisha;White, Elisha Jr.;Whitlock, Mary; Williams, John, estate;Williams, Thomas;Williamson, John; Winston, Peter;Wise, John;Woodcock, Isaac;Wright, Patrick; Young, Judith
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How we Lived in the Last Days of the Confederacy
An excerpt from A Virginia Girl in the Civil War, 1861-1865 being a record of the actual experiences of the wife of a confederate officer by Myrta Lockett Avary
Though the last act of our heroic tragedy was already beginning I was so far from suspecting it that I joined mother at the Arlington, prepared to make a joke of hardships and wring every possible drop of pleasure out of a winter in Richmond, varied, as I fondly imagined, by frequent if brief visits from Dan. The Arlington was kept on something like the European plan, not from choice of landlady or guests but from grim necessity. Feeding a houseful of people was too arduous and uncertain an undertaking in those days for a woman to assume. Mrs. Fry, before our arrival in July, had informed her boarders that they could continue to rent their rooms from her, but that they must provide their own meals. We paid her $25 a month for our room, the price of a house in good times and in good money. During my absence in Mansfield, Hicksford, and other places, mother, to reduce expenses, had rented half of her room and bed to Delia McArthur, of Petersburg. I now rented a little bed from Mrs. Fry for myself, and set it up in the same room. We had become so poor and had so little to cook that we did most of our cooking ourselves over the grate, each woman often cooking her own little rations. Sometimes we got hold of a roast, or we would buy two quarts of flour, a little dab of lard, and a few pinches of salt and treat ourselves to a loaf of bread. We boiled rice or dried apples or beans or peas in our stew-pan, and we had a frying-pan if there was anything to fry. Across the hall from us Miss Mary Pagett, of Petersburg, had a room to herself. Sometimes we all put what we had together and ate in company. When any of us secured at any time some eatable out of the common, if it was enough to go around we invited the others into breakfast, dinner, or tea, as the case might be. It must be understood that from the meal called "tea," the beverage from which the meal is named was nearly always omitted. Our fare was never very sumptuous; often it was painfully scanty. Sometimes we would all get so hungry that we would put together all the money we could rake and scrape and buy a bit of roast or something else substantial and have a feast. We all bought coal in common. And we had company! Certainly we seemed to have demonstrated the truth of the adage, "Ole Virginny never tire." We had company, and we had company to eat with us, and enjoyed it. Sometimes our guests were boys from camp who dropped in and took stewed apples or boiled peas, as the case might be. If we were particularly fortunate we offered a cup of tea sweetened with sugar. The soldier who dropped in always got a part (and the best part of) what we had. How we were pinched that winter! how often we were hungry! and how anxious and miserable we were! And yet what fun we had! We devised many small ways for making a little money. We knit gloves and socks and sold them, and Miss Beth Sampson had some old pieces of ante-bellum silk that she made into neckties and sold for what she could get. For the rest, when we had no money, we went without those things which it took money to buy. With money a bit of meat now and then, a taste of sorghum, and even the rare luxury of a cup of tea sweetened with sugar, was possible. Without money, we had to depend upon the bags of peas, dried apples, or rice. "If this war is ever at an end," sighed poor mother, "I hope I may sit down and eat at a decent table again. And I fervently hope that nobody will ever set a dish of rice, peas, or dried apples before me! If they do, I shall get up and leave the table." I never remember having more fun in my life than at the Arlington, where sometimes we were hungry, and while the country, up to our doors, bristled with bayonets, and the air we breathed shook with the thunder of guns. For hungry and shabby as we were, crowded into our one room with bags of rice and peas, firkins of butter, a ton of coal, a small wood-pile, cooking utensils, and all of our personal property, we were not in despair. Our faith in Lee and his ragged, freezing, starving army amounted to a superstition. We cooked our rice and peas and dried apples, and hoped and prayed. I had not heard from my husband for more than a week; indeed, there seems to have been in Richmond at this time a singular ignorance concerning our reverses around Petersburg. There were hunger and nakedness and death and pestilence and fire and sword everywhere, and we, fugitives from shot and shell, knew it well, but, somehow, we laughed and sang and played on the piano; and never believed in actual defeat and subjugation. Sunday morning, the second of April, as President Davis sat in his pew at St. Pauls Church, a slip of paper was brought to him. He read it, quietly arose, and left the church. General Lee advised the evacuation of Richmond by eight (p.m.) that night. That was what rumor told us at the Arlington. At first we did not believe it, but as that spring day wore on we were convinced. The Sabbath calm was changed to bustle and confusion, almost into riot. The streets were full of people hurrying in all directions, but chiefly in the direction of the Danville depot. Men, women, and children jostled each other in their haste to reach this spot. Loaded vehicles of every description rattled over the pavements. As darkness came upon the city confusion and disorder increased. People were running about everywhere with plunder and provisions. Barrels and boxes were rolled and tumbled about the streets as they had been all day. Barrels of liquor were broken open and the gutters ran with whisky and molasses. There were plenty of straggling soldiers about who had too much whisky, rough women had it plentifully, and many negroes were drunk. The air was filled with yells, curses, cries of distress, and horrid songs. No one in the house slept. We moved about between each others rooms, talked in whispers, and tried to nerve ourselves for whatever might come. A greater part of the night I sat at my window. In the pale dawn I saw a light shoot up from Shockoe Warehouse. Presently soldiers came running down the streets. Some carried balls of tar; some carried torches. As they ran they fired the balls of tar and pitched them onto the roofs of prominent houses and into the windows of public buildings and churches. I saw balls pitched on the roof of (the home of) General R. E. Lee. As the day grew lighter I saw a Confederate soldier on horseback pause almost under my window. He wheeled and fired behind him; rode a short distance, wheeled and fired again; and so on, wheeling and firing as he went until he was out of sight. Coming up the street from that end toward which his fire had been directed and from which he had come, rode a body of men in blue uniforms. It was not a very large body, they rode slowly, and passed just beneath my window. Exactly at eight (p.m.) the Confederate flag that fluttered above the Capitol came down and the Stars and Stripes were run up. We knew what that meant! The song "On to Richmond!" was ended: Richmond was in the hands of the Federals. We covered our faces and cried aloud. All through the house was the sound of sobbing. It was as the house of mourning, the house of death. Soon the streets were full of Federal troops, marching quietly along. The beautiful sunlight flashed back everywhere from Yankee bayonets. I saw negroes run out into the street and falling on their knees before the invaders hail them as their deliverers, embracing the knees of the horses, and almost preventing the troops from moving forward. It had been hard living and poor fare in Richmond for negroes as well as whites; and the negroes at this time believed the immediate blessings of freedom greater than they would or could be. The saddest moment of my life was when I saw that Southern Cross dragged down and the Stars and Stripes run up above the Capitol. I am glad the Stars and Stripes are waving there now. But I am true to my old flag too, and as I tell this my heart turns sick with the supreme anguish of the moment when I saw it torn down from the height where valor had kept it waving for so long and at such cost.
Note: The City of Richmond was once part of Henrico County
17th Century Buttons
By Jeannette Holland Austin (profile)
There were a number of merchants in England who transacted business with the Virginia colonists. Mr. Isaac Cullen kept a store and was the agent of John Harris and John Cooper, merchants of England, in 1675. The goods which he kept were canvas, cottons, hollands, kerseys, Scotch cloth, jeans, broadcloth, blue linen, tape, ribbon, thread, buttons, combs, hose, shoes and other articles for wear. Likewise, the store kept by Colonel Francis Eppes of Henrico County discloses (in 1678) had a more extensive inventory consisting of 120 ells of dowlas (linen), 51 ells of oznaburg, 60 ells of canvas, 312 ells of holland and 80 yards of table and napkin diaper. Source: Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1692.
Horse Races at Bermuda Hundred
By Jeannette Holland Austin
One of the most popular horse tracks in Henrico County was situated at Bermuda Hundred, among the oldest settlements in the valley of the lower James River. It was July of 1678. The race was run between horses belonging to Mr. Abram Womack and Mr. Richard Ligon. In this instance the owners did not ride their horses. One was ridden by Thomas Cocke and the other by Joseph Tanner, a servant of Mr. Thomas Chamberlaine, both of whom were still mere boys. The horses made a rush, but the one ridden by Cocke, after running four or five lengths, shied from the track. Cocke quickly reining him in, cried out "This is not a fair start." Chamberlaine shouted to his servant, who was riding the other horse, to stop, but the young man, when he returned, boldly declared that the race was fairly begun, and in this contention was sustained by Mr. Childers. Source: Henrico County Minute Book 1682 to 1701, p. 38.
The 17th Century Featherbed
By Jeannette Holland Austin
The inventory of the average planter in Virginia during the 17th century revealed a variety of household articles among the different apartments of a dwelling. The home of Thomas Osborne of Henrico County left a personalty calculated to be worth 125 pounds sterling. There was furniture, tableware, bed and table linen and the utensils in the kitchen and dairy. The room designed as the "best" contained a feather-bed, bolster, pair of pillows, curtains and valance, a blanket and a worsted rug. There were also two chests with locks and keys, a framed table, one small sideboard table, one chest of drawers, six high and six low leather chairs, a small old-fashioned looking glass, pair of andirons with brass bosses, pair of bellows and a small leather trunk. Source: Records of Henrico County, Vol. 1688-97, page 350.
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