The precursor to Chesterfield County: Dale Parish

It was 1735 and the residents of the area that is now Chesterfield were getting restless. While Chesterfield had grown in population and had significant industrial strength it was still part of Henrico.

On its way to becoming a county unto itself, which would happen 14 years later, on May 31, 1735 the Dale Parish was formed to appease those who were complaining south of the James. The parish system was how the English had gone about dividing the colonies and at the time there was a mixing of political and sectarian rule.

According to “Chesterfield: An Old Virginia County” by Francis Lutz, “the cumbersome Henrico Parish was too large and scattered for a single vestry to handle, and that part of the parish south of the James was separated into two precincts, each with its own governing body.”

Those who lived south of the river didn’t have a church until the parishes were divided, but eventual one was built, although historians are unsure where it stood.

William Byrd, who owned much of the commerce in Chesterfield at the time, was not bothered by the new boundary as he kept a close eye on his enterprises with almost dailycontact with his plantations and trading business by way of a sloop that sailed up and down the James.  

The seeds of a new county were sown. The boundaries of the Dale Parish became the boundaries of Chesterfield, with its own governing body and its own church.

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