Railroaded in Colonial Virginia…


THANKFUL THURSDAY…PART 2

King George County, Port Royal, Virginia

We are picking up from Part 1 of this post, dated January 30, 2013, in King George County, Virginia, meandering toward our final destination the Centre Hill Mansion Museum to do the annual January 24th Ghost Walk through the house originally built by Colonel Robert Bolling (my paternal 6th great grand uncle) in 1823.

The linked videos above give you an overview of what we experienced that evening. However, when we left off on our historic trail to this event, we had about another hundred miles to travel. In King George County, we stopped at our favorite roadside diner, Horne’s,

Horne's Diner, Port Royal, VA

Horne’s Diner, Port Royal, VA

on MD Route 301/A.P. Hill Blvd, in Port Royal, Virginia for breakfast and to walk our dogs. (Horne’s is just northeast of Bowling Green where some of my paternal Bolling family are buried.)

Fort A. P. Hill (sandwiched between Port Royal and Bowling Green, Virginia) in Caroline County

After the American Revolutionary War and for decades to follow, ordnance, arms, and military stores increased at New London, Virginia, and this area became known as the New London Arsenal. By July of 1940, the Army General Staff’s War Plans Division raised a national army of four million men for simultaneous operations in the Pacific and European theaters.

Image of Lt Gen A.P. Hill

Lt Gen A.P. Hill

Named for Confederate Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill, Fort A.P. Hill, “Where America’s Military Sharpens Its Combat Edge” is an all-purpose, year-round, military training center located about 90 minutes south of the National Capital Region. The installation was used as a maneuver area for Army Corps and National Guard divisions from Mid-Atlantic states. In 1942, it was the staging area for the headquarters and corps troops of Major General George S. Patton’s Task Force A, which invaded French Morocco in North Africa. In the early years of World War II, the post continued to be a training site; in 1944, it became a field training site for Officer Candidate School and enlisted replacements from nearby Forts Lee, Eustis, and Belvoir. During the Korean War, A.P. Hill was designated “Camp A.P. Hill”–a major staging area for units deploying to Europe. During the Vietnam War, the fort was the major center for Engineer Officer Candidate School training. With 76,000 acres (310 km²) of land, including a modern 28,000 acre (110 km²), live-fire range complex featuring more than 100 direct and indirect fire ranges, it remains one of the largest East Coast military installations where military units can engage in training from small unit operations to major maneuvers with combined arms and live-fire exercises.

Doswell, Hanover County, Virginia

Known on the east coast today for its King’s Dominion Theme Park, Doswell, an unincorporated community in Hanover County in the Central Region Virginia was originally farmland and called Hanover Junction.

The Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad - train starting out from Richmond, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad – train starting out from Richmond, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hanover Junction was located on the Virginia Central Railroad, and became part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O) at a crossing of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, a north-south route. Both railroads today are owned by CSX Transportation, and many residents use the rails to commute to their jobs in Richmond.

historic Virginia Central/RF&P rail interchange at Doswell (Hanover County)

historic Virginia Central/RF&P rail interchange at Doswell (Hanover County)

From here, we are going to focus our attention on the importance of access to transportation for Virginian ancestors’ livelihood.  So we turn to the Virginia State Rail Plan histories published in 2008¹

Virginia was a farming colony until 1776. Its primary need for transportation was to move bulky, heavy tobacco leaves from farm fields to Europe. Large plantations and small farms produced a surplus of one staple crop, a crop that was good only for export. You can’t eat tobacco, so Virginians had to ship it to the customers overseas.

In the 1600’s and 1700’s, plantations were carved out of the wooded countryside, and early plantations were concentrated along rivers. Every plantation in Tidewater developed a wharf to ship tobacco directly to England – hauling 1,000-pound hogsheads of tobacco along muddy roads from the tobacco barns just to the wharf was hard enough. Roads were developed so people could walk or ride from farms to churches and the county courthouse, but there was little investment in upgrading the roads in Tidewater so Virginians could move freight in wagons.

wood for locomotive fuelOnce settlement moved upstream past the Fall Line in the 1720’s, however, the need for better roads increased. Starting in the 1830’s, the new technology of wood-burning locomotives and iron rails stimulated further the competition of commercial centers on the Fall Line to build low-cost transportation connections to inland “backcountry” or “hinterland” areas, far away from the port cities.

The first large-scale use of the steam-powered locomotive in North America was the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company, between Charleston and Hamburg, South Carolina (across the Savannah River from Augusta, Georgia). From the beginning, rail construction showed how one port city could use new transportation technology to intercept the trade of another port. The railroad enabled Charleston to “steal” from Savannah the trade in cotton grown in the South Carolina/Georgia Piedmont. Farmers had been carrying cotton in wagons to ships that could sail on the Savannah River, up to the falls at Augusta. With construction of the railroad, farmers found it easier to ship to Charleston by rail. The rail line provided benefits to one port city, at the expense of another.

Prior to the Civil War, Virginia’s railroads were not designed to create a logical transportation network linking all major cities in the state. Even in the cities, railroads built terminals in separate locations. In the days before “union” stations, draymen earned a good living hauling freight by horse and wagon from one railroad’s terminal to another, usually just several blocks away. It was inefficient, but each railroad was independent. The concept of a trade network based on rail transportation would require consolidation of separate railroad companies (which occurred in a series of mergers and hostile takeovers after the Civil War).

Virginia’s railroads were designed originally to transport farm products to specific ports. Different cities built different railroads to bring raw goods from the west to the specific port on the Fall Line, and to ship manufactured goods (especially imports from Northern manufacturing centers and overseas) back to rural communities. Railroads were tools for economic development of specific locations, and political decisions on what railroads to authorize affected the land use, population growth, and wealth of those locations.

One exception: the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac (RF&P) ran north from Richmond to Fredericksburg, and then to docks on the Potomac River near Aquia. Unlike most other Virginia railroads, the RF&P emphasized passenger as well as freight traffic, connecting Richmond passenger traffic with points north via steamboats that sailed from the Aquia Landing up the Potomac River to Washington DC. Only the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac (RF&P) ran north/south, and was expected to make most of its income from transporting people.

The General Assembly authorized railroad lines that would steer trade from the Piedmont/Valley and Ridge provinces to a favored Fall Line port – and blocked most proposed railroad extensions that would have directed Shenandoah Valley trade to an out-of-state port. Multiple rail lines were authorized to cross the Blue Ridge and link Alexandria/Richmond with the Shenandoah Valley, but no railroad was built in the valley itself to link farm communities with each other – or with Baltimore/Philadelphia – until the 1880’s.

The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) railroad was blocked from entering Virginia, except for a short extension to Winchester. Staunton and Winchester did not have a direct railroad connection until after the Civil War. Northern capitalists had to gain sufficient economic/political control to re-shape the pattern of railroads in Virginia, before rail lines were constructed to connect all major population centers.

Source: Library of Congress, Lloyd's official map of the state of Virginia from actual surveys by order of the Executive 1828 & 1859

Source: Library of Congress, Lloyd’s official map of the state of Virginia from actual surveys by order of the Executive 1828 & 1859

Prior to the Civil War, Alexandria built the Orange and Alexandria (O&A) railroad to connect to the farms in the upper Rappahannock River watershed in the Piedmont. Alexandria intercepted the trade in wheat and other products that might have gone down the Rappahannock River to Fredericksburg.

Alexandria then built the Manassas Gap railroad through the Blue Ridge at Manassas Gap, expanding its railroad connections into the Shenandoah Valley.

At Front Royal, rafts and boats bringing iron “pigs,” lumber, and farm products on the Shenandoah River could shift their goods to the Manassas Gap railroad, rather than float further downstream to Harpers Ferry, the C&O Canal, and ultimately Georgetown.

A recession or “financial panic” in 1857 forced Alexandria merchants to truncate plans to build a more-expensive Manassas Gap line. The original design was to build an independent, second track roughly parallel to the Orange and Alexandria (O&A) from Alexandria to Manassas, before turning west to cross the Blue Ridge. Without the financing after the recession, the Manassas Gap rail line was joined to the Orange and Alexandria at an insignifiant location.  That rail junction, known as Manassas, became the focal point of the Union Army in 1861. Union generals planned to use the rail line to haul hay and other supplies for the army, as it marched “On to Richmond” in the first major military campaign of the Civil War.

Source: Library of Congress, Map showing the route of the Washington and Atlantic Railroad and its connections (1883)

Source: Library of Congress, Map showing the route of the Washington and Atlantic Railroad and its connections (1883)

To capture even more business that might go to Maryland or Pennsylvania, Alexandria also built the Alexandria, Loudoun, and Hampshire (AL&H) railroad into Loudoun County. Alexandria had no direct railroad line to Fredericksburg until after the Civil War, when the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac (RF&P) was extended north to eliminate the inefficient transfer or cargo/passengers to steamships on the Potomac River.

Richmond built a number of rail lines. Even before the wood-burning locomotive was developed, rails (with cars pulled by mules) connected the coal fields of Chesterfield County with the city.

Virginia railroads in 1848 Source: Library of Congress, Railroads in Virginia and part of North Carolina, drawn and engraved for Doggett's Railroad Guide & Gazetteer

Virginia railroads in 1848
Source: Library of Congress, Railroads in Virginia and part of North Carolina, drawn and engraved for Doggett’s Railroad Guide & Gazetteer

Richmond built the Central Virginia Railroad to draw business from farms located along the upper reaches of the North Anna and South Anna rivers and some of the Rivanna River watershed in the Piedmont. The line was originally aimed at Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley, but the Blue Ridge was too high a barrier. The route was curved south from Gordonsville, to Afton Gap. A tunnel was carved through the Blue Ridge where I-64 now crosses, and the rail line stretched past Staunton before construction was interrupted by the Civil War.

Virginia Central in 1852 Source: Library of Congress, Map of the Virginia Central Rail Road showing the connection between tide water Virginia, and the Ohio River at Big Sandy, Guyandotte and Point Pleasant

Virginia Central in 1852
Source: Library of Congress, Map of the Virginia Central Rail Road showing the connection between tide water Virginia, and the Ohio River at Big Sandy, Guyandotte and Point Pleasant

The Richmond and Danville Railroad was built to attract trade from as far away as Halifax and Pittsylvania counties, on the North Carolina border. Richmond built a rail line in the opposite direction to West Point. It is located at the confluence of the Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers, the headwaters of the York River. The river channel was deeper there. Richmond was competing with Norfolk, with its naturally-deep harbor, in hopes of controlling the trade in coal, wheat, and tobacco from the Appalachian Plateau/Shenandoah Valley/Piedmont.

Petersburg developed as the southern gateway to Richmond, via the RF&P. The South Side Railroad connected Petersburg to the farms in the Appomattox River watershed, and the Petersburg and Roanoke railroad captured business from cargo shipped by batteaux and canal boats down the Roanoke River.

During the Civil War, the Confederacy was quick to use railroads, bringing troops from the Shenandoah Valley to Manassas in July 1861 and building the first military railroad between Manassas and the front lines at Centreville in early 1862.

In 1861, Robert E. Lee warned that the failure to connect the lines of the Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad (AL&H) with the tracks of the Orange and Alexandria would be costly. When the Union invaded Alexandria in May, 1861, two locomotives were stranded on the AL&H. The Confederacy had to haul them overland across the hills of Fauquier county, to Piedmont Station (today known as Delaplane) on the Manassas Gap Railroad.

The Richmond and Danville Railroad created a dilemma for Confederate officials. North Carolina strongly resisted the decision by Confederate officials to construct the Piedmont Railroad, connecting Danville and Greensboro. That state wanted the trade from its Piedmont to go through Wilmington, NC rather than a Virginia port. The national Confederate government ultimately rejected the states rights concerns of North Carolina, and forced construction of the Piedmont Railroad as a military necessity. After the Civil War, farmers on the North Carolina Piedmont could ship their cargo and buy their goods from Petersburg and Richmond, costing North Carolina businesses some economic opportunities.

Piedmont Railroad, built during Civil War to connect Greensboro NC and Danville, VA Source: The National Map, Seamless Server Viewer

Piedmont Railroad, built during Civil War to connect Greensboro NC and Danville, VA
Source: The National Map, Seamless Server Viewer

Roanoke and Manassas grew from the start as towns where two railroads connected. Not every railroad intersection developed into a town – Doswell, for example, has remained a tiny crossroads community for 175 years.

When railroads were constructed, physical geography trumped political geography. Some towns with county courthouses were completely bypassed, leaving a few centrally-located communities to stagnate. For example, the Orange and Alexandria Railroad followed the flattest path south and bypassed the court houses built on the tops of hills – Fairfax Court House (Fairfax), Brentsville (Prince William County), and Warrenton (Fauquier). The town of Fairfax coped by developing Fairfax Station, and Warrenton later managed to get a spur line connecting it to the railroad.

In Prince William County, however, Brentsville remained isolated from the population growth stimulated by the railroad. After several hotly-contested elections, Manassas was able to get the county voters to move the courthouse to combine the government center with the county’s commercial center. After the move, Brentsville essentially disappeared off the map for 100 years, until local officials decided to restore the old courthouse as a historic site.

Railroads in Virginia, 1855 (note that Roanoke did not exist before the war) Source: Library of Congress - Williams' commercial map of the United States and Canada with railroads, routes, and distances (1855)

Railroads in Virginia, 1855 (note that Roanoke did not exist before the war)
Source: Library of Congress – Williams’ commercial map of the United States and Canada with railroads, routes, and distances (1855)

Hopewell–Home of Robert Bolling’s Kippax Plantation

Robert Bolling's Kippax Plantation, Hopewell, VA

Robert Bolling’s Kippax Plantation, Hopewell, VA

Hopewell is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The population was 22,591 at the 2010 Census.[3] It is in Tri-Cities area of the Richmond-Petersburg region and is a portion of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). 

The city was founded to take advantage of its site overlooking the James and Appomattox Rivers. City Point, the oldest part of Hopewell, was established in 1613 by Sir Thomas Dale . It was first known as “Bermuda City,” which was changed to Charles City, lengthened to Charles City Point, and later abbreviated to City Point. (At this time, Bermuda, the Atlantic archipelago, was considered part of the Colony of Virginia and appeared on its maps.) Hopewell/City Point is the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the United States, Jamestown no longer being inhabited.

“Charles City Point” was in Charles City Shire when the first eight shires were established in the Colony of Virginia in 1634. Charles City Shire soon became known as Charles City County in 1637. In 1619 Samuel Sharpe and Samuel Jordan from City Point, then named Charles City, were burgesses at the first meeting of the House of Burgesses.

The burgesses separated an area of the county south of the river, including City Point, establishing it separately as Prince George County in 1703. City Point was an unincorporated town in Prince George County until the City of Hopewell annexed the Town of City Point in 1923.

During the American Civil War, Union General Ulysses S. Grant used City Point as his headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864 and 1865. Grant’s headquarters, which President Lincoln visited, were located at Appomattox Manor, one of the three plantations of Richard Eppes, who cultivated wheat and other grains and held 130 slaves at the beginning of the war.

His property included most of the present day city of Hopewell and Eppes Island, a plantation across the James River from City Point. Richard Slaughter, a former slave of Eppes, escaped to a Union ship during the Civil War, as did all but 12 of Eppes’ 130 slaves, choosing freedom. Slaughter recounted his life story for a Works Progress Administration interviewer in 1936.

The City Point Railroad, built in 1838 between City Point and Petersburg, was used as a critical part of the siege strategy. It is considered the oldest portion of the Norfolk and Western Railway, now a part of Norfolk Southern.

Further Reading:

In his 2009 Book: Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), Aaron W. Marrs challenges the accepted understanding of economic and industrial growth in antebellum America (1781–1860–pre Civil War) in his original study of the history of the railroad in the Old South.

Marrs draws from familiar and overlooked sources, such as personal diaries of Southern travelers, papers and letters from civil engineers, corporate records, and contemporary newspaper accounts,to skillfully expand on the conventional business histories that formerly characterized scholarship in this field. By positioning railroads within the antebellum life, he examines how slavery, technology, labor, social convention, and the environment shaped their evolution.

March 2002:  University of Kentucky archaeologist Donald W. Linebaugh has located the original 17th century dwelling house of merchant-trader Robert Bolling in Hopewell, Va.– By Dan Adkins

Linebaugh and six UK College of Architecture graduate students in the college’s historic preservation program will excavate the site for artifacts during the week of March 11 through March 16. The site is on the Kippax Plantation at 999 Bland Ave., Hopewell, Va. During the 20th century, the property was the dairy farm of the late Stephen and Mary Mikuska Heretick

Linebaugh said Bolling was married to Jane Rolfe, the granddaughter of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.

Bolling imported trade goods from England and other parts of Europe and sold them to traders who traded for furs with Native Americans living further inland.Linebaugh said the structure was built about 1680 and was destroyed in the early 1700s. Artifacts recovered from the fill within the cellar date from 1730 to 1740. The house was owned by Robert Bolling until his death in 1709, and then by his son Drury until his death in 1726.

Linebaugh, director of the UK Program for Archaeological Research in the College of Arts and Sciences and assistant professor of anthropology, has been working at the Kippax site since 1981.

During his tenure at the College of William and Mary from 1988 to 1997, students and volunteers from the community assisted the excavations.Since 1997, he has continued his work with help from students and staff at UK. The work has identified a number of plantation buildings, fence lines and features that date from the late 1600s to mid-1800s, as well as evidence of early Native American occupation of the property.

Last spring, Linebaugh and several students identified several large structural post holes with late 17th century artifacts. The post holes were tied to a small brick-lined cellar that had been excavated in the early 1980s and appeared to be part of a large post-in-ground dwelling.Linebaugh said the structure was built about 1680 and was destroyed in the early 1700s. Artifacts recovered from the fill within the cellar date from 1730 to 1740. The house was owned by Robert Bolling until his death in 1709, and then by his son Drury until his death in 1726.

Drury’s widow lived in the house until it became the property of Theodorick Bland through his marriage to Drury Bolling’s daughter Frances.A.R. Bolling Jr., sixth great-grandson of Robert Bolling (1646-1709), said, “The Bolling Family Association is delighted that Dr. Linebaugh has accomplished so very much in his search for historical data at the site of Robert Bolling’s first home in America. We look forward to his continuing work at this important site.”Linebaugh said the Bolling Family Association plans to visit the excavation site Friday afternoon (March 15). 

¹http://www.virginiaplaces.org/rail/

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