Located south of Richmond and bounded by the James and Appomattox rivers, Chesterfield was carved from the southern half of Henrico County in 1749. The county was named for British statesman and diplomat Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield. Chesterfield County's free immigrant population was derived principally from English stock, although there was also a significant Scottish and Welsh presence, as well as smaller numbers of German, French, and Swiss colonists. From the late eighteenth century through 1860, the numbers of those of African origin hovered at, and at times even above, half of the county's entire population.
Chesterfield benefited from its geographic location and natural resources. Its waterways made it a natural commercial corridor and provided sources of power for saw and grist mills. For more than two centuries, agriculture sustained Chesterfield's economy. Its fertile soil proved ideal for growing crops as diverse as tobacco, wheat, corn, cotton, and soybeans. Livestock and mining have also been important. Although Chesterfield's architecture is diverse, given the county's agricultural history, the most significant and dominant type of early building was the frame plantation house. In recent decades, the county has become an affluent bedroom community of Richmond and has experienced a growth spurt that has changed it beyond recognition. By 1870, the proportion of African Americans to whites began to shrink here as it did in most of Southside after Emancipation. Even the founding in 1882 of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (CS7) did not stop the exodus of blacks.
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