Lying midway between Tidewater and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlotte County was carved out of western Lunenburg County in 1764 and named for Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III. Its Southside terrain varies from undulating and rolling to steep and tilted hillsides interspersed with broad fertile bottomlands along the waterways. The county's southern boundary is formed by the Staunton (Roanoke) River, which, along with Charlotte's other major river, the Meherrin, flows into North Carolina's Albemarle Sound. From the beginning, agriculture has been the county's economic mainstay. The early settlement patterns of Charlotte County consisted largely of tobacco plantations with sizeable landholdings and a workforce that was mostly made up of slaves. Corn, wheat, and hay, as well as raising livestock and dairying, have been important parts of the county's economics. Charlotte also has its share of natural resources in timber, copper, and granite. Crops in the expansive lowlands of Staunton River enabled Charles Bruce to build Staunton Hill (CT18), one of the nation's most important Gothic Revival houses.
The post–Civil War period brought changes. Many of the large holdings were broken into smaller farms, and the outward migration of the African American labor force began (in 1860 almost 64 percent of Charlotte's population were enslaved African Americans). Keysville is the largest town in the thinly populated county. The county seat, the even smaller Charlotte Court House, boasts important architectural resources, including Virginia's only remaining courthouse designed by Thomas Jefferson.
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