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East of Richmond

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The eastern end of Henrico County is often known by its historic name, Varina. The name originally denoted a strain of tobacco cultivated by Native Americans, which John Rolfe, a superb marketer, introduced in England. Varina contains some of the county's most significant historic sites. Here Nathaniel Bacon settled in the Curles Neck area, near the ancestral homes of the Cockes and Randolphs (Thomas Jefferson's ancestors were the Randolphs of Turkey Island). Below the James River fall line, generations of Native Americans enjoyed plentiful hunting and fishing. The site of Powhatan's village is thought to be in the floodplain vicinity of the historic Tree Hill Farm, a 1770s farmhouse barely visible from Virginia 5, just east of the Richmond city limits. Here, in the seventeenth century, Native Americans coexisted with the English, who lived on modest farmsteads. No architectural fabric survives from the 1611 founders' period, and very little is left from the eighteenth century. Invasion of the area by Union troops twice during the Civil War, in 1862 and 1864, accounts for some architectural attrition. Three national cemeteries hold Union dead from battlefields at Fair Oaks, Seven Pines, Savage Station, New Market Heights, and Malvern Hill. The National Park Service has preserved some of the more intact trench lines and forts in its Richmond National Battlefield Park system. After the Civil War the agricultural community of Varina recovered, and demand for milk provided a market for major dairy operations in the early twentieth century. The city annexed the East Highland Park area, and, starting in the 1880s, trolley service—replaced later by large streetcars—was extended to the Seven Pines National Cemetery along what became Nine Mile Road. Henrico County's waterfront, adjacent to Richmond, became an extension of Richmond's late nineteenth-century industrial development. Here the Fulton rail yards became the focus of activity around which large factories were built. Sandston, one of the villages, started out as a military development around a World War I munitions plant and continued to thrive when Byrd Field evolved as a military facility. The military airfield later became Richmond International Airport. Although Varina has retained some of its rural character, the area has become ideal for industrial and suburban development.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.

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