Norfolk County is an extinct county in South Hampton Roads in eastern Virginia in the United States. It existed for 270 years, from 1691 to 1963. After the American Civil War, for a period of about 100 years, portions of Norfolk County were lost and the territory of the county reduced as they became parts of the separate and growing independent cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth and South Norfolk.
In 1963, the remaining portions of Norfolk County were consolidated with the much smaller City of South Norfolk to form the new City of Chesapeake, a name selected by voters. Although organized as a city, and one of the larger in Virginia, the City of Chesapeake has both busy suburban and industrial areas and mostly rural sections, including a large portion of the Great Dismal Swamp and large tracts of preserved forest land.
Shires to counties 1634-1691[edit | edit source]
During the 17th century, shortly after establishment of the Jamestown Settlement in 1607, English settlers explored and began settling the areas adjacent to Hampton Roads. By 1634, the English colony of Virginia consisted of eight shires or counties with a total population of approximately 5,000 inhabitants. One of these was Elizabeth City Shire, which included an area on both sides of Hampton Roads. The northern portion became Elizabeth City County in 1643, and is now incorporated into the independent city of Hampton.
1691 Norfolk County created: Adam Thoroughgood[edit | edit source]
Captain Adam Thoroughgood (1604-1640) is credited with naming Norfolk County. Thoroughgood was a prominent resident of the colony. Like so many others at that time, he had been born in England and migrated to Virginia, and named the new county after his original "home" county back across the Atlantic Ocean.
After 1691, Norfolk County remained more or less intact for over 200 years. Portsmouth became the county seat and a major area of commerce, along with Norfolk. Smaller towns were formed at Berkley and South Norfolk. Portsmouth became an independent city in 1858, but remained the county seat of Norfolk County even though it was administratively separate from the county, a situation not uncommon in Virginia.
In 1871 and 1919 respectively, Norfolk and South Norfolk also became independent cities and as such, were no longer in Norfolk County. In the following years, the county lost additional territory. The incorporated town of Berkley as well as the areas of Sewell's Point, Willoughby Spit, and Ocean View were lost to the City of Norfolk in multiple annexations. By 1960, the entire area of Norfolk County on the east side of the Elizabeth River north of Virginia Beach Boulevard was gone. On other sides, West Norfolk (Churchland) was lost to Portsmouth, and even South Norfolk had annexed a portion of the county.
1963: Creating a new city, Chesapeake[edit | edit source]
In Virginia, cities are immune from annexation by each other, but the most recent attempt by the City of Norfolk to annex yet another portion of Norfolk County had threatened to completely surround the tiny City of South Norfolk. That failed annexation would have threatened South Norfolk's viability as an independent entity, still a future threat. Since Norfolk County residents also feared future annexation suits, in this odd battle of municipalities, Norfolk County and South Norfolk became allies.
A strategy successfully used about 10 years earlier by Elizabeth City County, the Town of Phoebus, and the City of Hampton offered a solution. In 1963, after a referendum of South Norfolk and Norfolk County's voters and the approval of the Virginia General Assembly, South Norfolk and almost all of Norfolk County were joined by consolidation and reorganized as the new City of Chesapeake. The new name was chosen by the voters.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Elizabeth River Shire
- New Norfolk County
- Lower Norfolk County
- City of South Norfolk
- City of Chesapeake
- City of Norfolk
- City of Portsmouth
- Sewell's Point
- Willoughby Spit
- Ocean View
- Bower's Hill
- Lambert's Point
- Deep Creek
- Western Branch
- Great Bridge
[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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