History of Virginia
It had been believed that the first peoples to arrive in Virginia were the Clovis people1, who arrived from Asia around 11,000 years ago. However discoveries in Cactus Hills show that 5,000 years earlier another group had settled. North America had a large covering of glaciers, which although they didn't reach Virginia it did make the climate much cooler than it is currently. The tribes roamed the area hunting large mammals.
Gradually the climate grew warmer and drier, by 6,000 BCE there were oak and chestnut forests and the people relied more on plants, nuts, fruit and small animals. By 2,500 BCE the tribes were less mobile, learning to gather good from the flood plains of Virginia's rivers, building up surpluses which they traded. These people, known as the Woodland people lived in large villages with a complexes economic, political and social structure.
By the time of the Europeans arriving in Virginia, the Woodland Peoples had a population of around 50,000. Almost 20,000 belong to the Powhatan empire of Eastern Virginia, these were the best documented natives or Virginia, mainly because of their conflicts with the English.
The Powhatan empire had a complex religious belief system which made the English believe they were devil worshipers. This made it easier for the English to justify robbing them of their lands.
And here come the English, (and there goes the neighborhood !)
Sir Walter Raleigh arrived in 1585 and made a military base on an island just off what is now North Carolina. It was meant to be a self sustaining colony, but contact was lost during the Spanish Armada and when people came back in 1590 could it abandoned.
The English Dream of a new empire where they could seek riches, trade with China and Asia, raid Spanish Galleons and spread Protestantism in the face of Catholicism was called Virginia after their Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I. In 1606 the Virginia Company of London was granted rights to all land in North America not occupied by France or Spain, and three ships2 set up camp on the newly named James3 River. To get even more favor with their king, they called there new camp Jamestown.
The colonists began trading tools for food, and soon the Powhatan tribe were more dependent on the English than the English were on them. The English decided that aside from the land with villages on it, the rest was for the taking, and planted West Indian tobacco4 on it. This obviously annoyed the natives who were coming to realise that the English were out to invade.
Pocahontas has to be mentioned at this point, she was 12 or thirteen when she stopped Captain John Smith being killed, and also had warned the English of incoming attacks. The English kidnapped her in 1613 and she married John Rolfe5 and moved to England to live as Rebecca Rolfe
Within 40 years the Powhatan tribe was defeated, due partly to the English's greater firepower, but mostly to the European and African diseases that the Indians had no immunity to.
Tobacco was a difficult crop to cultivate, so more and more servants, then slaves were brought to Virginia, soon the economy was booming, but all was not well. Out of the 8,500 colonists sent to Jamestown, only 1,218 were left by 1624 from the effects of oppression, incursions and disease. King James revoked the charter and made Virginia Britain's first royal colony. It had an appointed royal governor, and elected legislature, The House of Burgesses, and an established church, this was the model for all the British New World colonies.
But I thank God, there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!
Sir William Berkeley, Governor, 1671
William Berkeley was appointed Royal Governor in 1642, and in was in charge for 27 years over two spells. Berkeley was totally opposed to the idea that everybody was equal, he wanted a colony run by and for the ruling elite, with a small group of yeomen farmers, a larger group of tenet farmers and an even bigger group of servants and slaves. Under Berkeley, America was not a haven for the outcast, he persecuted political and religious dissent.
Berkeley attracted the younger sons of English nobles and many of the Royalists who were fleeing Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth. These was the First Families of Virginia, Berkeley's ruling class. They needed people to rule, so Berkeley gave 50 acres of land each settler, or rather the person who paid for each settler to come to Virginia. This was a great deal for the rich, they got a servant for 5 to 7 years and another 50 acres of tobacco.
Virginia expanded further and further west as more and more land was given to the gentry. The capital was moved at the end of the 1600s to Williamsburg, which had the advantage over Jamestown that it was not surrounded by a swamp and its associated diseases.
More Peoples arrive
Virginia attracted many Germans from Pennsylvania to occupy the Shenandoah Valley in the first half of the eighteenth century, they were opposed to slavery and were strong supports of communities and a less intrusive government.
The Scotch-Irish arrived in Virginia about a decade after the Germans. They came for unstable areas of The British Isles and were rather rough and ready people. They were not welcomed in the East and made their way west were their culture was suited tot he harsher conditions. The Scotch Irish culture is still seen today as the Appalachian culture that is prominent in Bluegrass and County Music. One of the leaders of the Scotch Irish was Col. James Patten, an ancestor of General George S. Patton, who established a Scotch-Irish community in South West Virginia.
Virginia was fed up with the government from a distance. Most of the New World was more successful than the Old Country and felt that it could run its own affairs. On May 15th 1776, The Commonwealth of Virginia declared itself independent. Virginian Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution of national independence at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence.
The war lasted 6 years, and although the North had contributed as much to brining about the war, the politicians of Virginia dominated the early United States. George Washington was the nation's first President, with eight of the first 9 presidents coming from Virginia.
One of the fallouts from the Revolution, the First Families lost some of their power, and deference from now on it was money that talked.
Kentucky became a separate state in 1792
The Slave Trade
In 1778, Virginia banned the African Slave Trade, however slaves were part of Virginia's culture. At the start of the Nineteenth Century there were a number of revolts, but none were successful.
More and more settlers left Virginia for other parts of the continent, were the soil was less exhausted or conditions were better, land values fell dramatically. During the years between Independence and the Civil War, over a million people left Virginia, and it fell from being the most populous state, to the seventh. This exodus meant that the culture, laws and political ideas of Virginia were spread across the south. Virginians were everywhere in the US, booting the Brits out of Illinois to make sure it did not become part of Canada, to settling in Ohio and Texas.
Slaves were becoming to expensive to own in Virginia, however they were still highly sellable to the Southern States who were getting into the cotton trade. In 1832 the assembly voted against emancipation.
With Free States to the North, and Slave States to the south, Virginia's position was difficult. It became all to involved with returning escaped slaves. In October 1859, John Brown an abolitionist, seized the federal armory at Harpers Ferry in Northern Virginia to arm the slave rebellion that he thought would happen.
In 1860, for the first time in its history, Virginia didn't vote democrat, voting for the Constitutional Unionist Party. This allowed a Republican, Abraham Lincoln to take power. Over that winter Seven southern states seceded from the union. Virginia was caught in the middle, it was proud to be in America, but its population didn't want to fight fellow southerners. Virginia left the Union in 1861.
Virginian Robert E. Lee was offered command of the US army by another Virginian General, Winfield Scott, however Lee, although not believing in the states rights of succession or in slavery, refused to participate in an invasion of the southern states. He believed he was defending his home state.
The Confederacy voted to move its capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia. Virginia was still the most high profile and populous of the southern states, and it had a psychological association with the war of Independence.
In hindsight, moving your capital much nearer to Washington and the Union forces was a large mistake. More than half of the major battles were fought in Virginia, the northern counties were occupied by the Unionists for the entire conflict. Meanwhile fifty counties in the west left Virginia to form West Virginia.
By 1863, the economy was in such as state that hungry women were rioting in Richmond. Cotton exports were being blocked, causing mass inflation. 38,000 slaves had escaped from Virginia.
By 1865, the Union was besieging Richmond, which fell on April 3. A few days later Lee surrendered at Appomattox. 40,000 Virginian soldiers were killed in the war, more than half a million people have been killed or captured in Virginia. With the slaves gone, and the state in ruins, virgina was left in an impoverished state that is took over a century to recover from.
Smoke your way to recovery
As the Industrial Revolution hit, Virginia made a lot of money out of wood and its new found coal fields. The Hampton Roads area became one of the biggest coal ports in the World. With loads of rich industrialists in the North managing quickly expanding businesses, the need for tobacco meant that Virginia's cash crop was even even more demand than usual, this helped increase the fortunes of the state.
After the war, the blacks were given many more rights, however soon the former Confederate Politicians took power in the Southern States, introducing a 'separate but equal' policy, restricting the rights of poorer whites and blacks. From 1893 to 1919 Virginia's political scene was dominated by Thomas S. Martin, and for the next 40 by the Byrd machine, a veritable dictatorship that held power by keeping a strangle hold on voter registration. In 1924 Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act, on which Hitler modeled his Nuremberg laws.
Lets have a few more wars
A Virginian, Woodrow Wilson led the US into WWI. The war lead to more jobs in Virginia with a huge Naval Base in Norfolk and an explosive plant in Hopewell. It hastened industrialization in the state and also ,like in the UK, led to equal suffrage.
Virginia was key in the build up to WW2, the Naval Base was expanded, training camps were built, and the worlds largest building, The Pentagon, was built in Arlington, just outside of Washington. The Hampton Roads ports also saw a huge increase in shipbuilding for the expanding US Navy. This massive build up gave Virgina unprecedented levels of prosperity and employment.
After The War
The 50s, 60s and 70s finally saw the blacks of Virginia getting equal rights. In 1954 the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case banned segregated schools, however Virginia governors, Thomas B. Stanley and J. Lindsay Almond fought against them, with US Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr leading resistance to segregation. It is an understatement to say that it is truly sad that in the later half of the Twentieth Century that elected officials and State figureheads were so opposed to equal rights for their citizens.
Now Virginia is losing its dependence on agriculture and tobacco6 with high tech companies moving in. Half the world's Internet traffic passes through the state, the cities in Hampton Roads are merging into the chain of cities and conurbations that run from boston through New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.
Naval Station Norfolk
The Home of the Atlantic Fleet is the largest naval base in the world, occupying around 4,300 acres of land and four miles of seafront. It is home base for 75 ships, including 6 aircraft carriers as well as cruisers, destroyers, frigates, landing craft and submarines, and 134 aircraft. It is also a hub for military air logistics.
The site is based on the site of the Jamestown Exposition, held in 1907 it marked the 300th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in America. While visiting, high ranking officers remarked how the site would be perfect for a base, and the land was purchased soon after American entered WWI in 1917.
The Eastern Shore
The two counties of Accomack and Northampton make up Virginia's Eastern Shore, the southern 70 miles of the Delmarva7 peninsular. It has no land connection to the rest of Virginia, separated by the Chesapeake Bay. It was one of the first places settled by the English, who found the natives that lived in Accawmacke8 quite friendly, and it was much less effort farming there than trekking off inland to find new land. The Shire of Accomac which encompassed the whole of Virginia's Eastern shore was created in 1634, however it was soon renamed Northampton in an attempt to rid the state of heathen names. The northern half was made a separate county, Accomac in 1663, with the k finally being added to its name in 1940.
Despite being populated for almost 400 years, the Eastern Shore has not developed economically, mostly relying on agriculture and its famed sea food. More recently the Eastern Shore, with is gentle pace of life and picturesque scenery has attracted a lot of tourists. The northern part of the region is attracting people from the more Northern States wanting to buy a second home, and the southern part is becoming commuter belt for the Hampton Roads region.
There are no major urban areas on the Eastern Shore, for shops the residents must either travel north into Maryland or south into Virginia Beach. US Highway 13 runs the entire length of the Shore and across the Bay on the Bridge Tunnel.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
The Chesapeake Bay is one of the busiest waterways in the United States. While there had been passenger and railroad ferries across the bay from the Eastern Shore to the Hampton Roads, a quicker connection was needed. With a busy fishing industry, the nation's capital and the US Atlantic Fleet based in the bay, there was a need for very large ships to pass out to sea, and with the East Coast's vulnerability to tropical storms, a high bridge was out of the question. The result, opened in 1964 is at 17 miles long is the world's largest Bridge-Tunnel complex.
The bridge leaves the Eastern Shore south of Cape Charles9 and crosses on low trestles to Virginia Beach. There are four man made islands, bigger than football stadiums that house the mouths of the 2 mile long tunnels that allow shipping to access the bay and the Hampton Roads. In 1999 a parallel bridge was opened allowing 2 lanes of traffic each way, aside from in the tunnels.
The Bridge-Tunnel has allowed the southern Eastern Shore to become a commuter area for Hampton Roads, and it also provides a 90 mile shortcut10 for drivers heading south who would otherwise have to travel via Washington.
Chincoteague and Assateague Islands
Chincoteague is one of the largest population centers on the Eastern Shore, home to around 3000 people. It is reached by a four mile long causeway across the Chincoteague Bay and across a swing bridge over the fishing port. Much of its trade comes from the rich seafood beds around the island11, and during the sumer months it is a major tourist destination.
On the other side of the causeway is the Goddards Flight Facility and Wallops Island Base, the NASA headquarters for their Sounding Rockets12 as well as weather research.
Assateague Island is one of the Barrier Islands, sand islands that protect the rest of the shore from the storms and waves of the Atlantic Ocean. It is reached from Chincoteague. The whole island is a nature reserve with rare species including Bald Eagles and The Delmarva Fox Squirrel living there. It is also home to the famous Chincoteague Ponies, immortalised in the Book Misty of Chincoteague. They are a wild herd that once a year the best of are made to swim across the channel to Chincoteague and are auctioned off to fund the fire department.
The whole town of Chincoteague is obsessed by ponies, carving decoy ducks and lighthouses. The Assateague lighthouse is little more than a show piece now13 since the ocean has moved the sands of Assateague around so much it is a couple of miles away from the coast.
Facts and Figures
Official State Stuff
- State motto: "Sic semper tyrannis." (Thus always to tyrants.)
- State bird: Cardinal
- State dog: American Foxhound
- State flower: Dogwood
- State tree: Dogwood
- State insect: Tiger swallowtail
- State bat: Virginia Big-Eared Bat
- State song: none; the former state song, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," was retired in 1997 because some found its lyrics to be racially offensive
- State dance: Square dance
- State boat: Chesapeake Bay deadrise
- State fish: Brook trout
- State shell: Oyster
- State fossil: Chesapecten Jeffersonius
- State beverage: Milk
Population (from the 2000 census)
- State Population - 7,078,515
- Male / Female Split – 49 / 51
- Percentage not born in the US – 9.1%
- White non-Hispanic – 70.2%
- Black – 19.6%
- Hispanic – 4.7%
- Asian – 3.7%
- Native American – 0.3%
- Mixed race - 2%
- Christian – 84%
- Protestant – 69%
- Roman Catholic – 14%
- Other Religions – 2%
- Non-Religious – 12%
- Under 5s – 6.5%
- Under 18s – 24.6%
- Over 65s – 11.2%
Some Famous Virginians
Virginia has produced more presidents than any other state:
- George Washington
- Thomas Jefferson
- James Madison
- James Monroe
- William Henry Harrison
- Joseph Jenkins Roberts
- John Tyler
- Zachary Taylor
- Woodrow Wilson
Other famous Virginians include:
- Arthur Ashe - Tennis player.
- Lady Astor - Viscountess and politician.
- Warren Beatty - Actor, producer and possibly so vain he though that song was about him.
- The Carter Family - Most influential family in country music history.
- William Clark and Meriwether Lewis Explorers.
- Patsy Cline - Great country music singer.
- Ella Fitzgerald - Great jazz singer.
- Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson - Confederate general
- Robert E. Lee - Confederate general.
- Thomas Lincoln - Abraham's dad.
- Shirley MacLaine - Actress.
- Wayne Newton - Singer.
- Pocohontas - Native American Princess.
- Edgar Allen Poe - Suspense Writer.
- Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson - He'd dance for you.
- George C. Scott - Actor.
- Nat Taylor - Leader of Slave Uprising.
- Gene Vincent - Singer
- Booker T. Washington - Freed slave and educator.