English colonization what is today Hanover County was hunting ground
for the Pamunkey and Chickahominy Indians. In the late 17th century
it was settled by plantation owners and others involved in the tobacco
related economy. At that time it was part of New Kent County. Hanover
County was officially formed on November 26, 1720 from the area
of New Kent County called St. Paul's Parish. It was named for King
George I of England, who was Elector of Hannover in Germany when
he came to the throne. Two early port towns on the Pamunkey River
were Hanovertown and Newcastle. Both were mercantile villages from
which tobacco was shipped to England. Neither exists today.
Patrick Henry," Orator of the Revolution"
and first Governor of Virginia, was born in Hanover County in 1736.
Henry began his law career with an impassioned plea against the
King (known as the Parson's Cause case) at Hanover Courthouse. "Scotchtown",
Henry's family home while Governor of Virginia, has been preserved
and is open to the public. He also worked at the Hanover Tavern,
owned by his in-laws. Henry was greatly influenced by The Rev. Samuel
Davies, the leader of "The Great Awakening" in Virginia,
who established Pole Green and other meeting houses in Hanover in
the 1740's and later was the first president of Princeton University".
During the Revolution, Lord Cornwallis stayed at Hanover Tavern
on his way to Yorktown (it's said that he left without paying his
bill). Colonel Tarleton and General Lafayette traversed the County
several times. The Comte de Rochambeau also marched through the
Courthouse on the way to Yorktown. Dolley Madison was a resident
of Hanover during this same period.
Henry Clay of Kentucky, author of the Missouri Compromise, was
born in Hanover County in 1777. He ran for president three times;
served as a United States Senator; as a member of the House of Representatives;
and as Secretary of State. Edmund Ruffin, the famous agriculturalist
and secessionist, moved to Hanover County in 1844. He fired the
first shot on Ft. Sumter in South Carolina at the start of the Civil
War. He committed suicide after the Confederate defeat and is buried
Hanover County played a major role in the Civil War. Many battles
were fought in Hanover including some of its bloodiest conflicts
as the Union Armies tried to take Richmond. Those battles include
The Seven Days Battle; Cold Harbor, and North Anna as well as numerous
smaller battles and skirmishes.
The Town of Ashland, originally called Slash Cottage, was created
as a resort on the railroad prior to the Civil War. Randolph- Macon
College moved there from Boydton, Virginia in 1868. Today Washington
and Franklin Hall, the first building of the new campus, is a state
and national landmark. Its construction was funded largely by students.
Edited by Anne Cross,
Chair of the Historic Courthouse Area Advisory Committee.