Modern Henrico County
Henrico is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state of the United States. As of 2010, Henrico was home to 310,445 people. It is located in the Richmond-Petersburg region and is a portion of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Established as the Citie of Henricus in 1611 by the Virginia Company, Henrico became one of the eight original English shires (counties) in 1634 divisions of Virginia. Henrico is one of the oldest counties in the United States.
The independent city of Richmond was located within Henrico County until a state constitutional change in 1871 made all incorporated cities in Virginia independent cities. The land within Henrico County surrounds the independent city of Richmond to the west, north, and east. The shape of Henrico County curves around the northern side of the city of Richmond. Bordering the city of Richmond on the west, north, and east, the county of Henrico lies between the James and Chickahominy rivers, and constitutes approximately a third of the Richmond metropolitan area. Today, Henrico's nearly one-quarter of a million residents live in a well-planned community of 244.06 square miles consisting of beautiful residential communities, large expanses of fertile farm land, and carefully developed office, retail, and diversified industrial areas.
Richmond International Raceway is located in the central portion of Henrico County near Mechanicsville, Hanover County, Virginia, just north of the Richmond corporate limits. Additionally, Richmond International Airport is located in the eastern portion of Henrico County since Richmond is a business type of city.
Henrico County is one of the eight original Divisions of Virginia established by the British in 1634 in the Virginia Colonywhile it was still a British colony 1607 to 1775. Henrico County was fully established in 1611 with a lot of terrritorial changes.
Formed originally as Henrico Division, and shortly thereafter termed a "county", Henrico County was named for Henricus, a community founded in 1611 by Sir Thomas Dale. During the Indian Massacre of 1622, the chief Opechancanough led the Powhatan Confederacy against the English settlements to try to expel them from the territory; warriors destroyed Henricus.
Cape Henry at the southern mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Henricus, Henrico Cittie, and later Henrico County, were all named for Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of James I of England. Prince Henry showed great promise, and his death from typhoid fever at the age of eighteen was regarded as a tragedy for England.
On November 18, 1618, the Virginia Company of London, proprietor of the colony, gave instructions on the formation of a laudable government for the Colony to Sir George Yeardley when he departed from London to become full governor of Virginia. As directed, in 1619, Governor Yeardly established four large corporations, termed citties, which were designated to encompass the developed portion of the colony. These were Kecoughtan (later renamed Elizabeth Cittie), James Cittie, Charles Cittie, and Henrico Cittie.
In 1634, the King of England ordered the colony, which numbered about 5,000 settlers, to be divided into eight shires, or counties. One of these original shires (of which six are still considered extant) was Henrico County.
Henrico County originally extended to both the north and south sides of the James River (named in 1607 for King James I). Henrico's first boundaries incorporated an area from which 10 Virginia counties were later formed in whole or in part, as well as the independent cities of Richmond, Charlottesville, and Colonial Heights.
From Henrico territory came nine other counties and part of a tenth: Goochland, founded in 1728; Albemarle in 1744; Chesterfield and Cumberland in 1749; Amherst and Buckingham in 1761; Fluvanna and Powhatan in 1777; Nelson in 1807. Part of Appomattox, in 1845, was also formed from the territory that had once been part of Henrico as well as the cities of Richmond (became a town still part of Henrico County in 1742, incorporated as a city in 1782 and completely independent in 1842), Charlottesville (formed by charter in 1762, incorporated as a town in 1801 and as a city in 1888), and Colonial Heights (established in 1910, became an incorporated town in 1926 and an independent city in 1948.) There have also been a series of annexations by the City of Richmond and an annexation in 1922 by Chesterfield County that claimed the site of Henricus, changing the boundary of Henrico to what it is today.
Archeologists located the original site of Henricus late in the 20th century. On the south side of the James River (across from the original site of Varina, it is now located in Chesterfield County. The county developed Henricus Historical Park around the archeological site.
County seat, College of William and Mary
The original county seat was at Varina, at the Varina Farms plantation across the James River from Henricus. John Rolfe and his wife Pocahontas were thought to have lived there, where their son Thomas Rolfe may have been born. (In modern times, Varina Farm is still actively cultivated and can be seen from Interstate 295 to the east just north of the Varina-Enon Bridge.)
The Henrico-Glebe house at Varina was the location where Reverend Dr. James Blair, rector of Henrico Parish, is believed to have drawn up the plans for a new school, long a goal of the colonists of Virginia. Working in the last quarter of the 17th century, he was believed to have based his plans on earlier ones from Henricus, where a college had been started. After Blair's two-year mission to England at the request of the House of Burgesses, the government granted a charter for the college. It was built and named the College of William and Mary at Middle Plantation in 1693, the second oldest school of higher education in the United States.
The county seat remained at Varina until 1752, when it was relocated to the new Henrico County Court House, located at 22nd and Main streets (2125 East Main Street). There it remained for more than 200 years, although after Richmond was separated as an independent city, the courthouse was within the city limits.
American Civil War battle sites
Additional significant battles took place in 1864 during the Overland Campaign prior to and during the Siege of Petersburg, which led to the fall of Richmond. Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded in Henrico County at the Battle of Yellow Tavern on May 12, 1864.
Former incorporated towns
Prior to 1870, the Town and later City of Richmond was located within Henrico County. Under a new Virginia state constitution in 1870, and as further clarified by another one in 1902, Richmond became an independent city. However, it remains the seat of Henrico County to this day, a situation not uncommon in Virginia.
At the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century, several small incorporated towns were chartered by Acts of Assembly, primarily in areas of the county near to, but outside of, the city limits. As listed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, these included:
Note: Richmond city, formed from Henrico County, but has annexed much territory from Chesterfield County; annexed Manchester city (originally formed from Chesterfield) in 1910.
County Specific Research Sources
Source:Chamberlayne, 1898 The vestry book and register of Bristol Parish, Virginia, 1720-1789 (covers modern Henrio and Chesterfield Counties.