Chesterfield’s part in American Independence

On 1832 June 7, Congress enacted pension legislation extending benefits more universally than under any previous legislation. This act provided for full pay for life for all officers and enlisted men who served at least two years in the Continental Line – the state troops or militia, the navy or marines. Men who served less than two years but at least six months were granted pensions or less than full pay for their fight during the Revolutionary War. Benefits were payable effective March 4, 1831, without regard to financial need or disability and widows or children of war veterans. They were entitled to collect any unpaid benefits due from the last payment to a veteran until death.

This week we celebrate Independence Day. Chesterfield County played an important part in the War.

Sir Thomas Dale, after spending five years successfully establishing a settlement in the Virginia Colony decided that it was time to go back to England. The Colony was sustainable and producing tobacco, corn, flax and hemp in addition to reaping the benefits of an abundance of fish, fowl and deer.

Before leaving the colonies he set aside 100 acres to be subdivided for a town that would be named after the sitting Virginia Governor, Sir Thomas Gates – Gatesville. The town, located south of Proctors Creek, was later called Osbournes. It never amounted to much and was eventually destroyed in the Indian Massacre of 1622.

Peter Jefferson, the father of Thomas Jefferson was born at Osbournes, and with Jonathan Fry surveyed the boundary between North Carolina and Virginia. Peter shared the title of Virginia’s first map-maker with Fry. Thomas Jefferson’s father died on August 17, 1757.

Later another town, after Gateville and then Osbournes was laid out about a mile downriver, which would have been adjacent to the sand and gravel pit opposite Dutch Gap boat ramp. While Peter Jefferson was born there, the town never amounted to much. Osbournes wharf, built about a mile down river of the now defunct town on the James River was active for a number of years. The wharf located at Osbournes has probably been hauled away by the Algonquin Sand and Gravel Co. LLC. Some boaters call it the sand pits.

Thomas was born on April 13, 1743 and died July 4, 1826 in Albemarle County was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the third President of the United States (1801–1809). He was a spokesman for democracy, embraced the principles of republicanism and the rights of the individual with worldwide influence. At the beginning of the American Revolution, he served in the Continental Congress, representing Virginia and then served as a war time Governor of Virginia (1779–1781).

At age four he began attending school at Tuckahoe. After attended school at Tuckahoe he attended college at William and Mary.

After building the second house for his family, Monticello, with his wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, his interests were and became a musician, artist, architect, mathematician, astronomer, scientist, legislator, philosopher, writer, diplomat, jurist, gardener, and president of the United States

He collected and accumulated thousands of books for his library at Monticello. When Jefferson’s father died, Thomas inherited, among other things, his large library.

Chesterfield played a part in the Revolution. Gen. George Washington spent several days with his friend Archibald Cary in Ampthill.

Both Jefferson and Cary were members of the Virginia House of Manufacturers.

According to a pamphlet by Edwin Cox, “The History of Chesterfield County,” Cary had a flower and grist mill near his home at Ampthill and is said to have restarted the iron furnace on Falling Creek.

During the Revolutionary War, Cary started a gun powder mill on Pocoshock Creek.

As one of the leaders of the War, Cary is described as a man of “unconquerable spirit” and “element of force” in every walk of life. He was a friend of Jefferson and Washington and other revolutionary leaders. It was he that sent a message to Patrick Henry warning of dictatorship in Virginia.

In Chesterfield the justices provided for the families of the soldiers and furnished the valuable commodity of salt. “The Justices also turned  to the County to find any disloyal persons. There were several confiscations of property,” wrote Cox in 1936.

After the War was fully engaged, the British forces under Benedict Arnold marched on Chesterfield Courthouse on their way to Petersburg. Chesterfield Courthouse was burned as well as a hospital located there. The foundations have never been found as of 1937. The Courthouse was later rebuilt. Some of the records at the Courthouse were saved by the clerks by removing them.

Arnold then traveled to the James where he destroyed several American ships at Coxendale. The town destroyed by Arnold never recovered.

The British Gen. Cornwallis arrived in Petersburg in May of 1781.   

“As an illustration of the destruction in Chesterfield…  there is a letter from Bolling of Cobbs Hill to Braidwood, the tutor of his children, that he was unable to meet all of Braidwood’s bill because of the destruction  wrought by the British  Army.

The war ended the U.S. government acquired  land at Bermuda Hundred for a customs house. One building from that time still exists and is a private home. Bermuda was a port of entry and was acquired by the Farmville and Powhatan Railway Company in 1883.

In 1791 Gen. George Washington made another trip through Chesterfield and was escorted by a troop of horses. Bothered by the dust, Washington returned to the port at Bermuda without being escorted.  

During 1870 to 1880 there were many petitions to the state legislature related to where to locate the new Courthouse. Winfree saved the location by building shelters for the people attending court at its current location.

He also constructed Chester and Ashland as a cool getaway from Richmond. In 1824 Winfree built Magnolia Grove [Grange], Mr. M.A. Cogbill’s home.

The next time Chesterfield was involved in war was the War of 1812.

Independence Day has always been celebrated on July 4. Chesterfield is proud of its connection to some of the great men involved and their participation as the founders of the country through the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Chesterfield, the County of history.

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