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Chesterfield County, Virginia
Seal of Chesterfield County, Virginia
Map of Virginia highlighting Chesterfield County
Location in the state of Virginia
Map of the U.S. highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location in the U.S.
Founded May 25, 1749
Seat Chesterfield
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

, 2.57%
 - (2020)
 - Density


Chesterfield County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state of the United States. As of the 2020 census, the county's population was 364,548. Its county seat is Chesterfield6. It is located in the Richmond-Petersburg region and is a portion of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Much of the northern portion of Chesterfield County accounts for what is referred to as Metropolitan Richmond's "South Side".


Part of Henrico Cittie, Henrico Shire, Henrico County[]

Prior to English colonization, the area was occupied by Native Americans.

During the 17th century, shortly after establishment of the settlement at Jamestown in 1607, English settlers and explorers began settling other areas. One of the more progressive developments in the colony was Henricus, founded under the guidance of Sir Thomas Dale. It was to include a college to help educate Indians, as well as the children of settlers.

1619 was a watershed year for the Virginia Colony. Four large citties (sic) were formed, one of which was Henrico Cittie, and included what is now Chesterfield County. Also beginning in 1619, Falling Creek Ironworks, the first in what is now the United States, were established slightly west on Falling Creek from its confluence with the James River. Both were was wiped out by the Indian Massacre of 1622 and not rebuilt.

In 1634, the King of England directed the formation of eight shires (or counties) in the colony of Virginia. One of these became Henrico County, which extended to a large area on both sides of the James River.

Chesterfield County formed[]

On May 25, 1749, the Virginia General Assembly passed the act that separated Chesterfield from Henrico County and created the new county. The first county seat was established at Manchester, across the James River at the fall line from Richmond (which remained in Henrico County.)

Chesterfield County is named for the former British Secretary of State, Philip Stanhope. Lord Chesterfield was famous for his "good manners and writings."

Many years later, Chesterfield Cigarettes were named after this county due to the region's historical cultivation of tobacco.

Early ports, coal, roads, turnpikes and railroads[]

Prior to the American Revolutionary War, a thriving port town named Warwick was located at the northwestern confluence of Falling Creek and the James River. It was destroyed during that War, and not rebuilt. (It was near the current DuPont facility at Ampthill, and the site is not open to the public.) Another early port town was Port Walthall on the north shore of the Appomattox River. It was located near the current Point-of-Rocks Park.

Coal mining in the Midlothian area of Chesterfield County began in the 18th century. Around 1701, French Huguenot settlers to the area discovered the existence of the coalfield. In a 1709 diary entry William Byrd II, who is credited as the founder of Richmond, and had purchased 344 acres (1.4 km2) of land in the area where coal was found, noted that "the coaler found the coal mine very good and sufficient to furnish several generations." It was first commercially mined in the 1730s, and was used to make cannon at Westham (near the present Huguenot Memorial Bridge) during the American Revolutionary War. [1]

The Manchester Turnpike in Chesterfield County was the first graveled roadway of any length in Virginia in 1807. The toll road ran between the coal mining area of Midlothian near the headwaters of Falling Creek and Manchester, generally following the path of the current Midlothian Turnpike (U.S. Route 60}.

Created in 1816, the Virginia Board of Public Works was a governmental agency which oversaw and helped finance the development of Virginia's internal transportation improvements during the 19th century. In that era, it was customary to invest public funds in private companies, which were the forerunners of the public service and utility companies of modern times. Claudius Crozet (1789-1864), a civil engineer and educator who helped found Virginia Military Institute (VMI), was Principal Engineer and later Chief Engineer for the Board of Public Works. He was involved with the planning and construction of many of the canals, turnpikes, bridges and railroads in Virginia, including the area which is now West Virginia.

New turnpikes, were partially engineered and funded by the Board, and operated by private companies which collected tolls. The Manchester and Petersburg Turnpike which generally followed the path of the current Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. Routes 1-301), was one of these. A canal was built in Manchester section of Chesterfield. Portions are extant, and may be seen near the south end of Richmond's Mayo Bridge, although it is not as well-known as the much larger James River and Kanawha Canal which ran along the north bank at Richmond, and extended many miles to the west.

Seeking a better method of transportation so that their markets could be expanded, in 1825, a group of mine owners, including Nicholas Mills, Beverley Randolph and Abraham S. Wooldridge, resolved to build a tramway. (The Wooldridge family hailed from East Lothian and West Lothian in Scotland, and named their mining company Mid-Lothian, the source of the modern name). In 1831, the Chesterfield Railroad was the first railroad in Virginia, transporting coal from mines near Falling Creek in what is now the Midlothian area to the docks at the fall line at the head of navigation of the James River. Later railroad lines included the Richmond and Danville Railroad (R&D) (which put the Chesterfield Railroad out of business) and the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, both completed before the American Civil War in which they each played key roles.

Another small line through Chesterfield was a narrow gauge railroad. The Farmville and Powhatan Railroad, later renamed the Tidewater and Western Railroad, extended from Farmville in Prince Edward County to the tiny village of Bermuda Hundred in far eastern Chesterfield, which was a port on the James River near the mouth of the Appomattox River opposite present-day Hopewell. Although long gone, portions of the old rail bed may been seen along Beach Road near the entrance to Pocahontas State Park.

After the Reconstruction, the R&D eventually became part of the Southern Railway, and is now part of Norfolk Southern Railway. The Richmond Petersburg Railroad became part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. In 1900, a mostly parallel line was built by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, with a branch line to Hopewell. Through the "modern merger era of US railroads" (which began around 1960), portions of each eventually became part of the CSX Transportation system.

American Civil War[]

During the American Civil War (1861-1865), Drewry's Bluff became a key defensive point for Confederate forces to block the Union's vastly superior Navy from taking Richmond by way of the James River. During the Siege of Petersburg (1864-65), a long defensive works through the county was part of the Confederacy's Richmond-Petersburg line of land defenses. Railroad lines passing through Petersburg finally proved the key to the fall of Richmond in 1865, effectively ending the War.

A normal school founded by the state after the American Civil War primarily to help educate freedmen eventually became Virginia State University, located in the Ettrick area near Petersburg and Colonial Heights.

Former areas lost to new independent cities[]

Manchester (directly across the James River from the City of Richmond) was the county seat of Chesterfield County until 1874, when it was moved to the present location at Chesterfield Court House. The City of Manchester left Chesterfield late in 19th century to become an independent city, and merged with the City of Richmond by mutual agreement in 1910. It is now known as a part of South Richmond.

Colonial Heights was formerly an incorporated town in Chesterfield County, and became an independent city in 1948. Over half a century later, the two neighbors continued to share provision of some governmental services.

Annexation issues[]

Chesterfield County shares borders with four independent cities, and was long exposed to annexation suits from any of them under Virginia law. The county lost territory to the City Richmond through several annexations in the 20th century, one in 1944, and most notably, a highly controversial and complicated one in 1970.

The results of the 1970 annexation were exceptionally controversial because, while the annexation lawsuit filed by Richmond in 1965 was being heard, with the city seeking 51 square miles (132 km2) of the county, the leaders of the two jurisdictions, Irvin G. Horner, Chairman of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, and Phil J. Bagley the Mayor of Richmond, met privately and agreed to a compromise.

In May 1969, the Horner-Bagley Compromise, as it came to be called, was approved by the city and Chesterfield County and incorporated in a court decree of July 12, 1969. This effectively shut out a number of third parties attempting to block the annexation, and felt they had been excluded from the process. An example among these was a small commuter bus company holding an operating rights in the county, whereas the city granted its franchise to a competitor.

The annexation agreement resulted in Richmond receiving 23 square miles (60 km2) of the county, as well as fire stations, parks, and other infrastructure such as water and sewer lines. Under the agreement, approximately a dozen public schools, support buildings, and future school sites were conveyed to the City of Richmond to be operated by Richmond Public Schools. Compounding the unhappiness of many of the residents of the annexed area was the fact that Richmond Public Schools was already involved in a desegregation lawsuit in the Federal courts. The schools involved in the annexed area included Huguenot High School, Fred D. Thompson Middle School, Elkhardt Middle School, and eight elementary schools. In 1971, these schools were included in a court-ordered desegregation busing program, which finally ended in the 1990s.

Many of the 47,000 residents who lived in the annexed area of the 1970 compromise had been opposed to the annexation. They fought unsuccessfully for more than 7 years afterwards in the courts to have it reversed. They ruefully called the 23 square miles (60 km2) zone "Occupied Chesterfield."

At the same time, black plaintiffs who had lived in Richmond city prior to the annexation claimed a violation of the National Voting Rights Act of 1965. The claim was that their voting power had been deliberately diminished by the attempts of city leaders to add white voters and dilute the black vote. In 1970 the pre-annexation population of the city was 202,359, of which 104,207 or 52% were black citizens. The annexation added to the city 47,262 people, of whom 1,557 were black and 45,705 were non-black. The post-annexation population of the city was therefore 249,621, of which 105,764 or 42% were Negroes. The plaintiffs prevailed in court. This led to creation of a ward system to ensure blacks did not lose their voting power. Under the ward system, four wards had a predominantly white population, four wards had a predominantly black population, and one ward had a population that was 59% white and 41% black. [2]

Revisions in state annexation laws[]

Virginia's annexation laws have long been felt by many leaders to be a barrier to regional cooperation among localities. The problems and hard feelings which arose from the Richmond-Chesterfield case were used as prime examples of obstacles to regional cooperation as the state legislators considered changes.

In 1979, the Virginia General Assembly adopted legislation that allowed any county meeting certain population and density standards to petition the local circuit court to declare the county permanently immune from annexation. In 1981, Chesterfield County and several other counties in the state subsequently sought and received such immunity from further annexation by Richmond.

In 1987, the General Assembly, recognizing the controversy surrounding annexations in Virginia, placed a moratorium on future annexations of any county by any city. However, even when this moratorium expires, as it is currently scheduled to do in 2010, Chesterfield County will remain immune from annexation by Richmond because of the 1981 grant of immunity. [3] However, unless new legislation or revenue sharing or other agreements are reached, the county will potentially be exposed to annexation suits by any of the smaller independent cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell, and Petersburg which adjoin it.

Highways, transportation, tolls[]

For more details on this topic, see Transportation in Richmond, Virginia.

Beginning especially in the second half of the 20th century, Chesterfield grew exponentially, most of all as a bedroom community of Richmond. The Richmond-Petersburg Interurban Electric Railway, local streetcar service, and commuter rail service of the Southern Railway to Bon Air had all ended by 1957.

Even though some routes extended in to the county from both cities, transit bus service was not funded by the county as the large systems in Richmond and Petersburg converted to governmentally-subsidized operations in the 1970s. Privately-owned suburban bus services, such as that operated by Virginia Overland Transportation could not operate profitably, even when funded with start-up money through state demonstration program grants. Instead, the citizens of Chesterfield were perceived by their county leaders as heavily committed to automobile transportation for most local, commuter, and through transportation of people. The issue of possible county funding for commuter bus services was continuing as of the early 21st century. Further complicating the issue of public transportation in Chesterfield County is that most streets in the county do not have sidewalks, adding to the complete dependence on motor vehicles.

During this same time, the interstate, primary and secondary highways which were built by the Virginia Department of Transportation VDOT (and its predecessor agencies) through the customary funding sources were proving insufficient. Additional roads were built, and funded through collection of tolls.

Opened in 1958, and funded through toll revenue bonds, the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike was a toll highway which paralleled U.S. Route 1 and U.S. Route 301 between the northern edge of Richmond and the southern limits of Petersburg, cutting through Chesterfield which had the largest portion of its mileage. Conceived prior to the creation of the Interstate Highway System, tolls were removed completely in 1992. Today, the former Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike forms a vital portion of Interstate 95 in central Virginia, including the northernmost portion of Interstate 85 near Petersburg.

The Powhite Parkway Extension of the Powhite Parkway in Richmond (a toll road operated by the Richmond Metropolitan Authority) also tolled and completed in 1973, was built and opened in 1988. The extension in Chesterfield County is operated by and the tolls are collected by VDOT. (The entire route in Richmond and Chesterfield is signed as Virginia State Route 76). The county extension begins at the exit for State Route 150 (Chippenham Parkway), and includes major exits for U.S. Route 60 west of Richmond, and State Route 288 in the Midlothian area. The southern terminus of State Route 76 is near the Brandermill development.

Another toll road, the Pocahontas Parkway, also known as State Route 895, connects the junction of Interstate 95 and State Route 150 in Chesterfield County, with Interstate 295 near Richmond International Airport in Henrico County, forming part of a southeastern bypass of Richmond. Due to a quirk in the evolution of the road, the long-planned designation of "Interstate 895" could not be used. The 8.8-mile (14.2 km) roadway features the costly high-level Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge over the shipping channel of the navigable portion of the tidal James River downstream from the deep water Port of Richmond to allow ample clearance for ocean-going vessels to pass under.

Although Route 895 had been planned for many years, sufficient state and federal construction funds were not available when the road was finally desired. However, the highway was built without the use of toll revenue bonds. In 1995, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Public-Private Transportation Act allowing private entities to propose innovative solutions for designing, constructing, financing and operating transportation improvements. An acceptable proposal was submitted through an innovative public-private partnership and an agreement was reached, with tolls collected to recover costs. The toll collection facility features the Richmond area's only high-speed open lanes, allowing vehicles to travel through the toll facility at highway speeds with a Smart Tag or other compatible electronic toll collection transponder.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,132 km² (437 mi²). 1,103 km² (426 mi²) of it is land and 29 km² (11 mi²) of it (2.57%) is water.

Chesterfield County is largely bordered by two rivers which define miles of its boundaries. The major adjoining cities each originated at the head of navigation of these river, called the fall line. There, the sandy and mostly flat eastern coastal plain region of Virginia turns into the hillier and rockier Piedmont region to the west. Portions of Chesterfield County extend across both regions.

At fall line of the James River, Richmond and Manchester were formed. Most of the northern portion of Chesterfield County accounts for what is referred to as Metropolitan Richmond's "South Side". However, due to the geography in which the James River approaches Richmond from almost due west, and turns almost due south below the fall line for about 8 miles (13 km) before turning east again, the land within Henrico County encompasses much of Metropolitan Richmond's West End, its North Side, and East End areas.

Chesterfield County also borders on the Appomattox River to its south. Much of the southern and eastern portions of the county are considered part of the Tri-Cities area, which centers on the lower Appomattox River, where the neighboring independent city of Petersburg was founded on the fall line.


As of the census² of 2000, there were 259,903 people, 93,772 households, and 72,110 families residing in the county. The population density was 236/km² (610/mi²).

A more recent 2006 estimate puts the population of Chesterfield County at 306,000 - a growth of over 35,000 people since 2000[1].

There were 97,707 housing units at an average density of 89/km² (230/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 65.44% White, 32.23% Black or African American, 0.33% Native American, 2.37% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.34% from other races, and 1.41% from two or more races. 2.93% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 93,772 households out of which 40.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.20% were married couples living together, 11.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.10% were non-families. 18.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.11.

In the county, the population was spread out with 28.30% under the age of 18, 7.70% from 18 to 24, 31.20% from 25 to 44, 24.90% from 45 to 64, and 8.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 95.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $58,537, and the median income for a family was $65,058. Males had a median income of $43,030 versus $30,518 for females. The per capita income for the county was $25,286. About 3.30% of families and 4.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.60% of those under age 18 and 3.40% of those age 65 or over.


Like most of Richmond's suburbs, Chesterfield County historically tilted conservative. After voting for Democratic incumbent Harry Truman over the Republican nominee Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 presidential election, it voted for GOP candidates in every election through 2016. It was one of the first areas of Virginia where the old-line Byrd Democrats began splitting their tickets at the national level. However, conservative Democrats continued to hold most local offices, as well as most of its seats in the state legislature, well into the 1980s.

From 2008 on, however, the county began to be competitive; after 14 consecutive elections (including 1992 and 1996) in which Chesterfield had delivered double-digit margins to Republicans, John McCain won it in 2008 by just 7.4%, a margin which Mitt Romney expanded in 2012 only marginally to 7.8%. In 2016, Donald Trump became the first Republican in the county's post-1948 run of voting Republican to carry the county with only a plurality, as he received just 48.2% of the vote. In 2020, Joe Biden became the first Democrat in 72 years to carry the county, winning it by 6.6% (and with an absolute majority) over Donald Trump.

United States presidential election results for Chesterfield County, Virginia[2]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 93,326 45.77% 106,935 52.45% 3,623 1.78%
2016 85,045 48.22% 81,074 45.97% 10,243 5.81%
2012 90,934 53.18% 77,694 45.44% 2,360 1.38%
2008 86,413 53.31% 74,310 45.85% 1,365 0.84%
2004 83,745 62.58% 49,346 36.88% 723 0.54%
2000 69,924 63.02% 38,638 34.82% 2,389 2.15%
1996 56,650 60.71% 30,220 32.39% 6,435 6.90%
1992 56,626 55.55% 28,028 27.50% 17,279 16.95%
1988 58,828 75.34% 18,723 23.98% 532 0.68%
1984 54,896 79.78% 13,739 19.97% 176 0.26%
1980 37,908 70.71% 13,060 24.36% 2,645 4.93%
1976 27,812 65.54% 14,126 33.29% 498 1.17%
1972 24,934 85.24% 3,823 13.07% 496 1.70%
1968 22,015 56.03% 5,715 14.54% 11,562 29.43%
1964 17,486 67.59% 8,376 32.38% 9 0.03%
1960 9,787 61.71% 5,982 37.72% 90 0.57%
1956 5,787 53.12% 3,306 30.35% 1,801 16.53%
1952 4,482 55.70% 3,546 44.07% 18 0.22%
1948 1,428 30.19% 2,600 54.97% 702 14.84%
1944 901 23.89% 2,860 75.82% 11 0.29%
1940 879 20.63% 3,354 78.71% 28 0.66%
1936 621 19.57% 2,522 79.48% 30 0.95%
1932 726 26.91% 1,886 69.90% 86 3.19%
1928 1,325 55.05% 1,082 44.95% 0 0.00%
1924 282 21.30% 967 73.04% 75 5.66%
1920 302 23.61% 964 75.37% 13 1.02%
1916 141 16.43% 699 81.47% 18 2.10%
1912 61 7.19% 702 82.78% 85 10.02%
1908 167 21.03% 608 76.57% 19 2.39%
1904 151 19.74% 597 78.04% 17 2.22%
1900 884 38.84% 1,368 60.11% 24 1.05%
1896 1,273 41.93% 1,727 56.88% 36 1.19%
1892 1,241 39.52% 1,747 55.64% 152 4.84%
1888 1,576 49.64% 1,589 50.05% 10 0.31%
1884 1,582 47.04% 1,780 52.93% 1 0.03%
1880 955 43.51% 1,240 56.49% 0 0.00%

Town twinning[]

On 11 October 2005 the agreement will be signed to join the Borough of Gravesham in Kent, England with Chesterfield County in a link up between the two communities. The town of Gravesend, on the River Thames is part of the borough, and it was here that Princess Pocahontas was buried after she had died on board a ship in the river. The village of Matoaca is believed to be her home village. The link is part of the 400th anniversary celebrations in 2007 to mark the founding of Jamestown.


In May of 2004, Chesterfield was named the "17th Best Place to Live in America" by the American City Business Journals.

Chesterfield County is also noted as the home town of NASCAR superstar Denny Hamlin. He spent years racing at many local short tracks, including Southside Speedway in Midlothian.

Roy F. Hoffmann, Chairman of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, owns a home in Chesterfield County.

Unincorporated towns and communities[]


Chesterfield County Public Schools is the local school system, and has received the U.S. Department of Education's Blue Ribbon Award.

See also[]


External links[]

Coordinates: 37°23′N 77°35′W / 37.38, -77.59

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Chesterfield County, Virginia. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.