Warwick County is a now extinct political subdivision in Virginia. It was created as Warwick River Shire, one of eight created in the Virginia Colony in 1634. It was located on the Virginia Peninsula on the northern shore of the James River between Hampton Roads and Jamestown.
During the 17th century, shortly after establishment of the settlement at Jamestown in 1607, English settlers explored and began settling the areas adjacent to Hampton Roads. By 1634, the English colony of Virginia consisted of eight shires or counties with a total population of approximately 5,000 inhabitants.
Warwick River Shire took its name from Robert Rich, second Earl of Warwick and a prominent member of the Virginia Company who was proprietor of Richneck Plantation. Warwick River Shire became Warwick County in 1643. The first courthouse and jail were located at Warwick Towne. In 1790, Warwick County recorded 1,690 persons in the Federal Census, making it the third smallest county in Virginia. After the American Revolution, Warwick Towne was abandoned, and the county seat was moved to the area of Denbigh Plantation, near Stoney Run.
The new county seat was at Denbigh, where in 1810 Warwick's first brick courthouse was built. It also served as clerk's office and jail. In 1864, a large courthouse was erected on the same tract, the clerk retaining the old building. Both served until the merger with the city of Newport News in 1958.
Immediately after the end of the American Civil War in 1865, land agents began acquiring land in Warwick County for Collis P. Huntington, the railroad magnate, for "future enterprise". On the basis of these land purchases, the original city of Newport News was to be built at the southern end of the county. In 1881, Newport News was chosen as the Atlantic deep water terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O), which was controlled by Collis P. Huntington. In 1886, Huntington established Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Warwick County.
Virginia has had an independent city political subdivision since 1871. Newport News became an independent city in 1896 by an act of the Virginia General Assembly, one of the few cities in Virginia to have never been incorporated as a town.
In 1918, Warwick County was the site of a new military installation, Camp Abraham Eustis, later renamed Fort Eustis. The U.S. Army base was constructed near the mouth of the Warwick River and included Mulberry Island. Lee Hall was the closest railroad station, and handled great volumes of troop traffic, especially during World War II.
The leaders of Warwick successfully fought off an annexation attempt by Newport News in 1949, but only by ceding 4 square miles to York County in a clever legal maneuver which was seen as a narrowly-won technical victory. In Virginia, independent city status guarantees protection against annexation of territory by adjacent communities, so in 1952, the county successfully petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to amend its charter so that the remaining area (71 sq mi/184 km²) of Warwick County became an independent city, putting it on an equal footing with Newport News annexation-wise. However, six years later, the citizens voted by referendum to be consolidated with Newport News, and this took place in 1958, creating Virginia's third largest city in population, and largest in area at the time.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
See also Edit
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