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Emporia (Independent City) and Vicinity

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When Greensville County was whittled out of Brunswick in 1780, the small community of Hicksford was chosen as its county seat. Located on a ford at the fall line of the Meherrin River, Hicksford was also at the crossing of two major colonial roads. The Tuscarora Path (now part of I-95) traversed it from north to south and the Fort Road (now U.S. 58) that led to Fort Christanna (BR12) crossed it from east to west. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, towns were often established by the General Assembly at the request of speculators. Canny landowners laid out their villages before they were legally established in order to be exempt from the state's stringent grid-plan regulation and half-acre lot requirement. In 1798, Belfield Starke's town of Belfield on the north side of the river was established, followed the next year by Alexander Madill's Hick's Ford on the south side. Laid out as linear towns with a few cross streets, both conform to the topography of the land rather than to a strict grid plan.

For over two centuries, the communitys' crossroads location brought traders, warriors, and farmers. During the Civil War, dramatic skirmishes took place on the banks of the Meherrin with Confederate general Wade Hampton's troops defending its important railroad bridge. In 1887 the optimism of the post-Civil War boom encouraged the two towns to merge into one, with the important-sounding name Emporia from the Latin for markets or places of business. The south side's Hicksford district, where the courthouse is located, continues as a governmental, commercial, banking, and residential center. With two intersecting railroad lines, the industrial and commercial north side's Belfield boomed after the Civil War, but it struggles in today's economy. Emporia has had independent city status since 1967 and is another of Virginia's county seats outside its own county's jurisdiction.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Anne Carter Lee

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