Mecklenburg County borders North Carolina and embraces the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' John H. Kerr Reservoir, usually called Buggs Island Lake. Built between 1946 and 1953 for flood control, electric power production, recreational use, and fish conservation, the lake was created by damming the Staunton (Roanoke) River, which flows into North Carolina's Albemarle Sound. The county was formed from Lunenburg in 1765 and by 1795 was the location of Sir Peyton and Lady Jean Skipwith's Prestwould (MC17), one of the first large post-Revolutionary plantation complexes built by eastern Virginians moving their “home house” or “mansion house” to Southside. More typical of the county is the modest quality of most pre–Civil War frame buildings and the twentieth-century decline in Mecklenburg's agricultural economy.
The county is home to three towns of architectural importance, all built primarily on agricultural profits. Boydton, the courthouse town, retains the earliest buildings and the former Randolph-Macon College (MC12) for men. Clarksville and Chase City grew as market centers for tobacco growers after the Civil War when the railroad linked them to Richmond and Petersburg, and to Durham, North Carolina. Chase City especially illustrates the New South character of post–Civil War market towns.
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