This article is based on the corresponding article in another wiki. For Familypedia purposes, it requires significantly more historical detail on phases of this location's development. The ideal article for a place will give the reader a feel for what it was like to live at that location at the time their relatives were alive there. Also desirable are links to organizations that may be repositories of genealogical information..
Please help to improve this page yourself if you can.

James City County, Virginia
Seal of James City County, Virginia
Map of Virginia highlighting James City County
Location in the state of Virginia
Map of the U.S. highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location in the U.S.
Founded 1634
Seat Williamsburg
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

, 20.47%
 - (2007)
 - Density

Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4

James City County, Virginia as shown on 1895 map

James City County (formally, the County of James City) is a county located on the Virginia Peninsula in the Hampton Roads region of the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state of the United States. Its population is 48,102 (as of 2000), and it is often associated with Williamsburg, an independent city which borders James City County, and Jamestown which is within the county. As of 2007, the population is estimated at 60,867 [[1]] and as of 2004, the median household income is $66,180[[2]].

First settled by the English colonists in 1607 at Jamestown in the Virginia Colony, the County was formally created in 1634 as James City Shire by order of King Charles I. James City County is considered one of only five original shires of Virginia to still be extant today in essentially the same political form.

Beginning in 2006, and extending into 2008, the county is hosting the Jamestown 2007 celebration to mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown Settlement. Jamestown, along with Colonial Williamsburg and other area attractions, combine to make worldwide tourism to the Historic Triangle a major economic activity for the county.

History[edit | edit source]

This section incorporates text from the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, which is in the public domain.

17th & 18th centuries[edit | edit source]

Proprietary colony[edit | edit source]

The Virginia Company of London was granted a proprietorship (charter) by the King James I of England to attempt to establish a colony in the area we now know as Virginia. England had been at war with Spain and was seeking both capital funds and income in the form of royalties. In December, 1606, 3 ships set sail from England, led by Captain Christopher Newport. Upon reaching the New World at Cape Henry, they selected a site to settle about 40 miles inland from the coast along a river to be better protected from attacks by sea from other Europeans. Soon after the establishment of the Jamestown Settlement in 1607 in the new Colony of Virginia, English settlers first explored and then began settling more of the areas adjacent to Hampton Roads and along the James River.

The first five years were very difficult, and the majority of the colonists perished. In 1612, imported strains of tobacco cultivated in Virginia bu colonist John Rolfe were successfully exported and a cash crop had been identified.

In 1619, the Virginia Company of London instituted a number of changes, to help stimulate more investment and attract settlers from England. In the long view, foremost among these was the establishment of what became the House of Burgesses, the first representative legislative body in the European settlement of North America, predecessor of today's Virginia General Assembly. Also in 1619, the plantations and developed portions of the Colony were divided into four "incorporations" or "citties" (sic), as they were then called. These were (east to west) Elizabeth Cittie (initially known as Kecoughtan), James Cittie, Charles Cittie, and Henrico Cittie. Each "cittie" covered a very large area. Elizabeth Cittie not only included land on both side of the James River, but most of what we now know as South Hampton Roads and also included Virginia's Eastern Shore.

The Virginia Company's "James Cittie" stretched across the Peninsula to the York River, and included the seat of government for the entire colony at Jamestown Island. Each of the four "citiies" (sic) extended across the James River, the major thoroughfare of commerce for the settlers, and included land on both the north and south shores. With the incentives of 1619, many new developments, known as "hundreds" were established.

Wolstenholme Towne, Carter's Grove Plantation[edit | edit source]

About this same time, downriver from Jamestown, in the southeastern end of what is now James City County near present-day Grove, a fortified settlement known as Wolstenholme Towne was established near the river and just east of the confluence of Grove Creek on a land grant known as Martin's Hundred. However, the population of the town, named for Sir John Wolstenholme, a principal of the Martin's Hundred Society investors back in England, was severely decimated during the Indian Massacre of 1622, and many men, women and children were killed or abducted. While it was rebuilt, Wolstenholme Towne was eventually abandoned about 1643, and soon even the location was forgotten as it became one of the lost towns of Virginia.

Over 100 years later, the property had become part of Carter's Grove Plantation, itself built around 1753 by the grandson of Robert "King" Carter, who had become one of the wealthiest planters and served for a period as Virginia's acting governor. Another 200 years later, the long-lost the site of Wolstenholme Towne was rediscovered in 1976 during an archaeological dig overseen by Ivor Noel Hume after the Carter's Grove Plantation property came under the ownership of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Royal colony, creation of shires (counties)[edit | edit source]

The privately owned Virginia Company lost its charter in 1624, and Virginia became a royal colony. In 1634, the English Crown created eight shires (i.e., counties) in the colony of Virginia, with a total population of approximately 5,000 inhabitants. James City Shire, as well as the James River and Jamestown which had been named earlier, took its name from King James I, the father of the then-king, Charles I. About 1642-43, the name of the James City Shire was changed to James City County.

Middle Plantation, Williamsburg, Green Spring[edit | edit source]

On high ground midway across the Virginia Peninsula, Middle Plantation was established in 1632 as a fortress in the ongoing conflicts with Native Americans. By 1634, a palisade or fortification had been completed across the peninsula with Middle Plantation at the center. This protected the lower peninsula to the east.

Middle Plantation and James City County were selected for the site of the College of William and Mary in 1693 and became the location of the capital in 1699 after Jamestown was burned (again) in 1698. Shortly thereafter, Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg in honor of King William III of England. The capital was moved to Richmond in 1780 at the outset of the American Revolution. The Battle of Green Spring was fought in the county just a short time before the British surrender at Yorktown. (Green Spring Plantation was the former home of Royal Governor William Berkeley).

19th & 20th centuries[edit | edit source]

During the American Civil War, the Battle of Williamsburg was waged in York and James City County during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. Some earthworks remain at the site of the Confederate Fort Magruder. After the War, Collis P. Huntington extended the new Chesapeake and Ohio Railway through the county to reach new coal piers he had built at Newport News on Hampton Roads. Railroad stations were established (listed west to east) at Diascund, Toano, Vaiden's Crossing, Kelton, Ewell, Williamsburg, and Grove. In Williamsburg, the temporary tracks initially laid ran down the middle of Duke of Gloucester Street.

After a change in the Virginia constitution in 1871, Williamsburg became an independent city from James City County in 1884, although it remained the county seat. Williamsburg and James City County share a combined school system, courts, and some constitutional officers.

Beginning in the early 20th century, preservation and restoration efforts resulted in a major increase in tourism to the county and surrounding area. Attractions developed included Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, the Colonial Parkway, Carter's Grove Plantation, and Busch Gardens. At the turn of the 21st century, new archaeological work was underway at Jamestown and nearby Green Spring Plantation, with the promise of new historical discoveries. Each is especially attractive to archaeologists because of the lack of development after the mid 19th century.

Geography[edit | edit source]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 180 mi² (465 km²), of which 143 mi² (370 km²) is land, and 37 mi² (95 km², or 20.47%) is water.

James City County straddles two major watersheds, the James River Watershed and the York River Watershed. (Both are sub watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which stretches from Pennsylvania to Virginia). Within the James River and York watersheds are eleven sub watersheds - Diascund Creek, Ware Creek, Yarmouth Creek, Gordon Creek, Powhatan Creek, Mill Creek, College Creek, James River, York River, Skiffe's Creek and Chickahominy River. [3]

Demographics[edit | edit source]

As of the 2000 census[1], there were 48,102 people, 19,003 households, and 13,986 families residing in the county. The population density was 337/mi² (130/km²). There were 20,772 housing units at an average density of 145/mi² (56/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 82.05% White, 14.37% Black or African American, 0.28% Native American, 1.46% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.44% from other races, and 1.36% from two or more races. 1.70% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Of the total 19,003 households, 30.50% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.80% were married couples living together, 8.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.40% were non-families. 21.40% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the county, the population was spread out with 23.30% under the age of 18, 6.40% from 18 to 24, 27.30% from 25 to 44, 26.10% from 45 to 64, and 16.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 93.90 males. For every 100 females aged 18 and over, there are 91.00 males.

Economy[edit | edit source]

The median income for a household in the county was $55,594, and the median income for a family was $66,171. Males had a median income of $43,339 versus $27,016 for females. The per capita income for the county was $29,256. 6.40% of the population and 4.10% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 7.30% are under the age of 18 and 4.80% are 65 or older.

Jamestown and the Busch Gardens Europe theme park, each located within the county, combine with Colonial Williamsburg and other area attractions to share the Historic Triangle's status as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. With dozens of restaurants, hotels and motels, and resort and recreational facilities, the hospitality industry brings major economic activity to the county.

Cities, towns and communities[edit | edit source]

Williamsburg[edit | edit source]

Although it received its royal charter as a city in 1722, approximately one-half of Williamsburg was located in James City County for many years. The courthouse function was relocated there from Jamestown, where the newer but historic 1770 Courthouse building was erected on Market Square. It was replaced in 1933 with a newer building nearby, and the 1770 building, substantially restored in 1989, is today part of Colonial Williamsburg's attractions. Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

In Colonial times, and for about 100 years thereafter, Duke of Gloucester Street actually formed a prominent portion of the James City County border with York County, dividing the city down its primary street. [2]

After a new Virginia state constitution was adopted in 1871, independent cities, which were not located within counties, were created. Soon, Williamsburg's charter was modified, and it was no longer located within either county. However, although politically separate entities, Williamsburg has remained the county seat of James City County, and they continue to share courts and many other services.

Towns and communities[edit | edit source]

There are no incorporated towns in the county. Unincorporated communities include:

Education[edit | edit source]

Elementary, secondary schools[edit | edit source]

The local public school division is jointly operated with City of Williamsburg, and is known as Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools (WJCC).

The area is also served by Walsingham Academy, an independent school.

Higher education[edit | edit source]

A campus of Thomas Nelson Community College is located in the county near the Kingsmill development.

Portions of the College of William and Mary (which is actually a university with post-graduate programs) are located in the county, and the main campus straddles the city-county border with Williamsburg.

Industrial[edit | edit source]

Anheuser-Busch industries and developments have a major presence in James City County. These include a brewery, the Busch Gardens Europe theme park and the Kingsmill resort and planned community.

Just to the east of the Anheuser-Busch properties, in the southeastern section of the county, on the south side of U.S. Route 60, the county's James River Enterprise Zone, an Urban Enterprise Zone is located in Grove. The 5.6 square mile area contains 2,400 acres planned and zoned for industrial uses. James City County is actively seeking additional industrial business in this prime area of the county. The sites within a designated "enterprise zone" offer state and local incentives to businesses that locate in those zones, invest and create jobs.

Since the James River Enterprise Zone's inception in 1996, James River Commerce Center and Greenmount industrial parks have added tenants such as a Ball Manufacturing plant, an aluminum can plant which supplies Anheuser-Busch's Williamsburg brewery. A distribution center for Wal-Mart and a Haynes furniture warehouse are also located there. Recently, a masonry supply firm and a Volvo equipment rental facility have each announced plans to establish facilities. Carter Machinery Company, a Caterpillar dealership with 17 locations in Virginia and West Virginia, announced in May 2007 that is building a new sales and service center on a 23-acre site. A large property adjacent to the James River which formerly housed BASF is currently vacant and other additional sites are also available for more development. [4] [5]

U.S. Route 60 Grove-Lee Hall traffic[edit | edit source]

For several years in the early 21st century, a major project of James City County officials and Supervisor Bruce Goodson, who represents the Roberts Magisterial District, has been to improve US Route 60 between Grove and Newport News to provide better (faster and more direct) access to Interstate 64 from the industrial sites in Grove which generate a considerable volume of truck traffic, and reduce the same on the existing roadway. [3]

Access for the industrial traffic to I-64 currently requires a drive of about 4 miles in either direction on two-laned sections of U.S. 60 at non-highway speeds through residential areas, sharing the road with local traffic and school buses serving either the James River Elementary School's county-wide magnet program or alternatively, the large elementary school in the Lee Hall community in neighboring Newport News, as well as school buses for other schools going into and out of neighborhoods along the route in both communities.

On a historical note, a very similar roads issue was earlier visited in the 1930s, when the current parallel State Route 143 (Merrimack Trail) was built as part of a four-laned through-route alternative to U.S. 60 for increasing volumes of east-west through traffic in the area. Once again, options have been chosen so that the two-laned bucolic nature of Route 60 through the Grove and Lee Hall communities to be preserved without the major impact a widening project would have upon these historic communities.

Skiffe's Creek Connector[edit | edit source]

In June 2007, Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board approved a major portion of the funding needed for the U.S. Route 60 relocation project. The relocated divided highway will begin on its western end near the current intersection of Blow Flats Road and, on a new alignment, will cross through the Greenmount Industrial Park to reach the Newport News city limits. The portion of relocated roadway planned in James City County is being described as the Skiffe's Creek Connector.

A connection to State Route 143 and enhanced access to Interstate 64 nearby is also planned.

Newport News section[edit | edit source]

At the Newport News border, a new crossing of Skiffe's Creek will be built, and the remainder of the roadway will continue on a new alignment and effectively bypass the two lane portion of U.S. Route 60 through the historic Lee Hall community, rejoining the current highway near the cloverleaf intersection of Fort Eustis Boulevard near the entrance to Fort Eustis, where there is access four-laned access close by to exit 250 of Interstate 64 as well as an extant four-laned section of U.S. Route 60 which begins there and extends to the east as Warwick Boulevard. In a separate project, portions of Warwick Boulevard east of Fort Eustis in Newport News are currently being widened to six lanes.

Military sites, bases[edit | edit source]

17th century[edit | edit source]

A fort was underway at Jamestown very shortly after the colonists began establishing themselves there in May, 1607. Archaeological work has been extensive, and is a major aspect of the current attractions there.

For more details on this topic, see Jamestown Rediscovery.

By 1634, the settlers of the Colony of Virginia had completed a palisade of approximately 6 miles length across the peninsula, anchored by College Creek (earlier known as Archer's Hope Creek) and Queen's Creek, which led to the James and York rivers respectively. The goal was to protect the lower peninsula to the east from attacks by the Native Americans, who were still a threat in the area until after 1644.

The exact location of this line of wooden defenses has been lost to time. A portion was found during archaeological research on the property occupied by the home of Colonel John Page, a person prominent in establishing Middle Plantation and what became Bruton Parish Church during the second half of the 17th century. That site is now part of the Bruton Heights School Educational Center, and within Williamsburg's city limits. Although all of the Page home site was originally in York County, the nearly 2500 feet section across the property gives insight into its likely location southerly into James City County. Archaeologists noted its extremely straight orientation, rather following topological features such as ridges or ravines, giving another clue. [4]

For more details on this topic, see Middle Plantation.

19th century[edit | edit source]

During the American Civil War, the 1862 Peninsula Campaign was a move up the Virginia Peninsula from Fort Monroe at the eastern tip by Union troops in an attempt to take the Confederate capital of Richmond. The Williamsburg Line, a third Confederate line of defense, extended across the Peninsula just east of town. Construction of the line, largely consisting of a series of 14 redoubts, was overseen by College of William and Mary President Benjamin S. Ewell, who had joined in the defense of Williamsburg. At Redoubt # 6, near the center, Fort Magruder, an earthen fortification, was located at a strategic point at the juncture of the roads from Lee's Mill and Yorktown to Williamsburg.

At Fort Magruder, a few earthworks and a small memorial remain along present-day Penniman Road in a residential area. In early 2006, Riverside Health System donated 22 acres of the 350 acres of land that it had bought from Colonial Williamsburg in 2004, to create a public park. The land, located about 1.5 miles south of Fort Magruder (towards the James River), includes two redoubts that were part of the line of defenses made up of 14 redoubts, of which Fort Magruder was the largest.

20th century[edit | edit source]

The Grove Community in the southeastern end of the county was populated with many African-American families displaced during World War I and World War II as the military reservations for the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Camp Peary respectively were created on the sites of the lost towns of Lackey and Magruder.

At the southwestern edge of Grove, the U.S. Army's Camp Wallace operated from 1918 to 1971. It was a satellite facility of Fort Eustis, which was established as Camp Abraham Eustis in neighboring Warwick County in 1918. In this hilly terrain, the base had its Upper Artillery Range. Some years after World War II, Camp Wallace became was the site of the Army's first installation of its aerial tramway. The Camp Wallace property became part of the Anheuser Busch developments beginning in the 1970s.

21st century[edit | edit source]

No military installations are currently headquartered in the county. Small portions of Camp Peary and the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station are located in James City County, although most portions of each of these large installation are located in neighboring York County. Also, a very small portion of Fort Eustis property adjacent to Skiffe's Creek Reservoir and the southeastern tip of the Greenmount Industrial Park is also located in the county, although almost all of Fort Eustis is now located in the independent city of Newport News (which consolidated with the former Warwick County in 1958 to form the present large city).

Sources[edit | edit source]

Publications[edit | edit source]

  • McCartney, Martha W. (1977) James City County: Keystone of the Commonwealth; James City County, Virginia; Donning and Company; ISBN 0-89865-999-X

Websites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Economic Development[edit | edit source]

Government[edit | edit source]

Political parties[edit | edit source]

Attractions[edit | edit source]

Coordinates: 37°19′N 76°46′W / 37.31, -76.77

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at James City County, Virginia. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.